Saturday, July 16, 2011

Big Corn

Eli is the first of our two boys to get an Actual Job, with a Boss, Tax forms, and a Pay Check.

What's he doing? Working for Big Corn.

He got a job cross-pollinating with Pioneer, a company that produces seed corn. The work is similar to detassling (for those of you who have done that): walking the rows of corn and enabling corn sex. It's a classic Iowa summer job . . .

I told him that he was going to be working for The Man. For those of you who don't think Big Corn is The Man, please read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.

He dislikes the work very much. It's out in the hot sun, long hours (he starts work at 7:30 a.m. and they work EVERY DAY for 3 weeks, including Sundays), and unpleasant physical labor. But so far he hasn't quit. "I made $45 today," he said yesterday. He's motivated by the big bucks.

I'm slightly impressed that Big Corn provides 50 spf sunscreen (and makes the kids apply every 2 hours) and protective eyewear. I'm also glad Eli is cross-pollinating rather than detassling because he just goes to the Pioneer farm about 25 minutes north of here to work each day, rather than getting on a bus every morning at 5:30 and being bussed around the state to detassle at megafarms.

Since Pioneer raises corn seed, the seed needs to be pure. So cross pollinators make sure the correct pollen gets on the corn silks by covering the shoots (where corn cobs grow) and the tassles with bags. "Shoot-bagging" isn't too hard, according to Eli.

Tassle-bagging is a challenge as the tassles are at the top of the plants--some of which are 6-7 feet tall by now. You have to bend the corn down carefully so it doesn't break. And watch out for the wasps, spiders, Japanese beetles and flies. And corn rash (from the sharp leaves cutting one's arms . . .)

"I hate corn," said Eli yesterday.

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