President’s Column: Firsts

Every ‘first’ in life’s journey generally results in a memory that is carried for a lifetime. It also creates a first impression, influences future expectations and impacts our decision-making as we continue through life.

I remember my first date. The impression created definitely influenced my expectations and resulted in my second date being sometime later and with a different boy. Technically, my second date in life was actually another first date because it was a new boy. Over the course of the next several years, there were a few more first date events. Eventually, one of those first dates led me to what would be my last date when I ‘tied the knot’ and married my best first date ever.

My first time scuba diving is also etched in memory. Exhilarating! I definitely was looking forward to being able to do it again. And I remember my first roller-coaster ride. Horrific is the description that comes to mind. The memory of motion sickness that followed that ride (on top of New York New York hotel in Las Vegas) is vivid and serves to reinforce my declaration to never ride a roller coaster again.

When I think back to my first “real” job (excludes babysitting gigs), I attribute the experience to helping reinforce a strong work ethic, the value of being able to persevere through unpleasant circumstances and to appreciate when work was also fun. My first job was detasseling corn at the ripe ol’ age of 13. My favorite aunt and godmother invited me to stay with her and her family in Cokato and arranged for me to be hired and assigned to a crew with Payco Seed Company. I had had limited exposure to farm life and had no knowledge of the pollination process for corn, nor that there was female and male corn. But, I was attracted to the opportunity to earn “a lot” of money in three weeks by walking through corn fields pulling the tassels from female corn.

Each crew (all girls or all boys, no co-ed crews were allowed – and for good reason) boarded a school bus at 6:30 a.m. and set out for our first field. We had a 15-minute break in the morning & again in the afternoon, and a 30- minute lunch break. Our day ended anywhere between 2 pm and 6 pm. We worked through rain and shine. We had a crew supervisor who made random inspections of our work. If the supervisor found stalks that hadn’t been detasseled in your row, you had to go back and walk the row again. For me, that would have been humiliating, and for most crew members, it happened just once or not at all. I was determined to not have to experience the humiliation and consistently passed the random inspections. But, there were two girls who were routinely found to have inferior work that had to be repicked. Although the rest of the crew ended up with an unplanned break while we waited for the ‘repick’ to be completed, it also meant that our day would be longer.

I knew no one on my crew when I boarded the bus on the first day. The majority of my crewmates were very proud Finlanders. There were some that ‘couldn’t hack it’ or decided the pay that awaited us at the end of the season just wasn’t worth it. My ‘determined’ nature served me well as I finished the season. And, I did so without missing a day, which resulted in a 10 cent per hour bonus! We worked the first 13 days without a day off. I also returned for a second season when few other options existed for a 14 year old. I learned so much about myself with my first ‘real’ job.

Important work and progress is being made by our Talent Corps in attracting and retaining talent to meet our regions workforce needs. Automation has alleviated the need for the talent pool to include corn detasslers, however. Despite all of the character-building attributes that came with my corn detasseling experience, I think this is a good thing.

Posted on April 30, 2015 and filed under President's Column.