I had never heard of detasseling before I moved here, but it’s a big thing in the cornhusker state. It involves removing the top tassels of a corn stalk to control the pollination. They leave one row of tassels on for every five rows of corn or so. At first a machine goes over the field to pull the majority, but then companies hire kids as young as 12 to detassel everything the machine missed. It’s brutally hot, the corn leaves can cut you, and you get soaked from the dew on the plants. I’m not sure if I’d be up for it when I was 12.

The kids wear orange hats to make them more visible. Apparently theres a risk of getting crop dusted with pesticides by planes if they aren’t visible enough.

From left: Tabitha Bennett, 13, Adam Jarzynka, 14, and Katlyn Bennett, 13, attempt to get some sleep on the bus before the day’s work in the corn fields. Many detasseling companies pick the kids up as early as 5 a.m. to head to the fields.

Detasselers wait at the end of their row for their supervisor to quiz them on safety precautions.

Stephanie Leonard, 14, takes a nap in the shade under the bus as Katlyn Rouse, 14, left, and Tabitha Bennett, 13, entertain themselves as the crew waits for a detasseling machine to finish a block of the field.


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