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Detasseling a Hot Job
It's mid-July and the corn is way above knee-high. It's the perfect time to complete a necessary process in agriculture--detasseling.
"This is these kids' first jobs out here, so they're learning responsibility and all that," crew boss Kirby Mixer said. "Waking up, getting here on time."
At 5:30 a.m.
"It's hot," Mixer said. "We like to try to get a lot done in the morning,"
"This process involves removing the top of the plant of the female rows," Burrus Seed Farms President Tom Burrus said.
So they don't pollinate themselves.
"That's not good," Burrus said. "The hybrid vigor that is expressed by crossing to unrelated lines is what gives the yield boost in the farmer's field."
Mixer oversees at least eight other detasselers who either ride by her side or walk in the fields.
"Just to get what the machine can't get," Mixer said. "In a walking crew where if you're rouging and the corn's above your head there's no wind."
But lots of sun. That is where Burrus Seed Farms Supervisor Gary Sloter comes in.
"[We] make sure that they have plenty of drinking water," Sloter said. "We also try to give them breaks throughout the morning when they're at the end of each field."
It is a hot job for reasons other than the temperature.
"We have 550 applicants," Burrus said.
They can start at $7.75 an hour at as young as 13. They can also quickly work their way up.
"This is the highest earning opportunity that a young person could have," Burrus said.
And a good way to build a resume while cultivating life-long friendships.
The detasseling process will continue through the first days of August. Burrus Seed Farms is hoping for a yield of 50 to 70 bushels per acre.
Burrus Seed Farms recruits teens and young adults from a 30-mile radius. The kids end up learning several other agriculture processes as well. The Burrus's said many kids who they recruit at age 13 end up working on the farm through college.