Teen killed in grain bin remembered with scholarship, safety advocacy

By Kristine Goodrich

Mankato Free Press

When he wasn’t doing farm work, studying or participating in the St. Peter High School trapshooting team or FFA, Landon Gran was restoring his 1978 Ford pickup.

“He just got it running. He barely got to drive it,” said Michele Gran, Landon’s mother.

Landon, 18, died in an accident on a neighbor’s farm in rural Norseland on Aug. 14. He was killed by an auger in a grain bin.

Michele hopes she can prevent another family from enduring such a tragedy by advocating for grain bin safety improvements.

Landon’s pickup will be on display at a car show later this month that will raise funds for a scholarship in Landon’s name.

Landon would have been a senior this year at St. Peter High School. He was a member of the school trapshooting team and qualified for a national tournament. He was an active member of the FFA and had been appointed club secretary.

“He was very ambitious, hard-working kid,” Michele said. “He didn’t like sitting still.”

Landon planned to go on to South Central College to study agribusiness and agriculture equipment maintenance and then help his father run the family farm.

Instead of cheering him on at his last year of high school activities and helping him with his college application, Landon’s family and classmates are planning memorials and lobbying lawmakers and farming officials.

The St. Peter FFA is planning a “Roll ‘n for Landon” on Sept. 21 at the high school. Car and truck collectors are invited to show off their rides and compete for awards. Collectors and admirers also can buy a pulled pork lunch.

Funds raised will be used to establish a scholarship in Landon’s memory.

The Gran family also is donating benches for the school engraved with the words “Landon’s Love.” They hope the benches will promote inclusiveness.

Landon was often the first person to intervene when a classmate was being bullied or left out, Michele said.

“Everybody loved Landon,” his mother said. “He was a good kid and he’ll be horribly missed.”

Amid her grief, Michele is contacting state lawmakers and leaders of farming organizations advocating for new safety measures that could prevent another loss.

Harnesses are commonly recommended for farmers working in grain bins, but Michele said farmers often don’t use them because they take several minutes to put on.

Michele suggests an interior ladder, protective baskets over bin augers and remote auger shut off devices as alternatives that would be more widely used.

A rope ladder can help someone who falls into a grain bin escape before they are engulfed, Michele said.

A basket with openings wide enough only for grain can prevent someone from being swept into the auger, she suggested.

The grieving mother also envisions a wearable fail-safe device that would allow a trapped farmer to remotely shut off the auger.

Michele is advocating either for mandates or for grants or other incentives to encourage farmers to use such devices.

Last year 27 people died in grain bins or other agricultural confined spaces in the U.S., according to a Purdue University study. Another 34 people were entrapped but survived.

Four people have died in Minnesota already this year, according to media reports, including a 74-year-old man near Belle Plaine on Tuesday.

Michele worries the numbers will grow as low grain prices are prompting many farmers to store grain and wait for a better time to sell.

“Losing a child is a parent’s biggest nightmare and here I am living it,” Michele said. “It’s pretty hard to get though the day. I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”