What is Detasseling?
The tassel is the top most part of a corn plant --you can see them in the picture to the lower left. As DE-tasselers, we walk down a row of corn and pull the top part of the plant off and drop it to the ground.
Why would anyone do that?
As you might know, farmers do not save part of their corn each fall to plant in the spring. In the first half of the 20th century that's what they did, but they found that by planting seeds that are a cross between two different types of corn they grew A LOT more corn.
How does pulling the tops off do that?
Well, we don't pull all of the tops off. The top of the corn plant (the tassel, remember?) contains the pollen that allows corn plants to reproduce. We pull the tassels from certain rows of corn and the pollen produced by the other rows (which are a different type of corn) cross pollinates the first rows. This produces the special seed corn that farmers want to plant.
Why would I want to do that?
Well, because that seed corn produces so much for the farmers, they will pay good money for it, and so the seed corn companies we work for will pay us good money to remove those tassels. Besides, it's a good way to make some money with your friends and have most of your summer free to do other things.
Yeah, but is it hard?
It's hard enough (you'll earn the money you make). But a machine has gone through the fields ahead of us, and the machines remove around 70% of the tassels. We're really just cleaning up the tassels that the machine misses.
How long does it take to learn?
If you apply yourself, you can detassel like a pro after 3 days. We have people who will work with you to help you do the best job that you can. The real trick is to start your first day determined to work hard and do your best. Remember, it's only for a few weeks.