Dawn Buell estimates more than 65,000 people each year walk the rows of seed corn fields, pulling tassels before they can pollinate. While seed corn acres are down this year, Buell’s business, Not Afraid to Sweat Detasseling Inc., based out of Lincoln, Neb., will still employ about 600 teenagers, ages 13 to 22, to walk fields, catching what mechanical detasselers missed.
Many farm kids have memories of detasseling corn in mid-July. But Buell’s crew primarily hails from urban areas, and unlike the stereotypes, they are ready for the job.
"I really think young people like a challenge. They want to have opportunities to prepare them to enter the adult world, and I think detasseling is an amazing opportunity," she says. "I’m glad we do it because it’s not an option in most states."
Buell transports the teens from Lincoln and Omaha, Neb., to 4,500 acres of seed corn starting around July 10. In a normal growing season, first-year teens make $600 to $800 for the summer, while more experienced teens make $3,000.
"We have a pretty unique subculture. The kids really create a community on our buses," she says. "Many students return year after year. I turn away about 50% of the applicants each year, which many people are surprised about. They mistakenly think kids don’t want to work."
Many even find a passion for agriculture. "One of my detasselers, who was totally a city kid, loved detasseling. He is majoring in ag production even though he never grew up on a farm," she says. "He’s going to be in ag for the rest of his life just from having that experience."
Each company in the seed family plays a part in making new discoveries and developing new tools for farmers:
4-Years it takes Syngenta to develop a new soybean seed trait, down from six
5-Significant active ingredients launched by Dow AgroSciences between 2008 and 2012
7-Regional brands make up the AgReliant portfolio
47-Years Dicambia, a key part of the new Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System that is pending regulatory approval, has been on the market
100-Years Bayer CropScience has been in business
1999-Pioneer offers the first PROBOX bulk seed boxes
Feb. 21-Beck’s Hybrids teams up with Kinze Manufacturing to farm with the first multi-hybrid planter
What a Day!
Pull It Back
This isn’t what we mean by farmers pulling back on corn acres. A 30" rain made a sinkhole at the edge of this field, hidden in the tall grass. Luckily the farmer was able to pull the tractor out backward.
If you’ve had one of those days—or caught someone else’s on film—we’d love to share it with our readers. Email high-resolution images to email@example.com, or mail prints to What a Day!, Farm Journal, P.O. Box 958, Mexico, MO 65265. Photos for publication will be selected on a first-come basis.