A long-time Wallaceburg area corn crew, run by Carolyn and Glen Vsetula, started by Rick and Cathy VanDamme, is getting ready for the upcoming season. They are looking to hire hard-working youth from the Wallaceburg and Port Lambton area.
“My mom, Cathy Van Damme, retired from the corn crew three years ago,” said Carolyn Vsetula (nee VanDamme), owner of Ag-Ec Ltd.
“Historically, my brothers and I worked with my parents, and today my husband and I run the crew and my two kids now join us in the field.
“Our crew is all about a family environment. When we were kids, my Dad’s tradition was to enjoy a cold pop in the field, at the end of the day. Today, we continue the tradition with each employee receiving a cold pop for the ride home.”
Over the years, the crew size has grown. “Now we hire 70 students annually”
How old do you have to be?
Carolyn said they prefer students to be 14 years and older.
“They can give me a call at 519- 351-0935. My husband and I will ask them a couple of questions. You don’t need to be experienced, but experience is nice. We teach them the job and we make it fun. We look for students who are motivated, who have a positive attitude, and want to have fun.”
Carolyn says she has had some students for 10 years.
“A number of them actually,” she said.
Carolyn says she has some university students who still come out.
Carolyn said everyone is provided a hat and gloves.
“The kids wear hats with mesh that comes down and we provide that hat,” she said.
“What’s really good about that hat is it’s a bright colour so I can see you in the field. There is a mesh that comes down and keeps the corn off your face, and provides shade to the face.”
How much $ do the kids make to start?
Carolyn said students under 18 start at $10.55 an hour, and $11.25 if you are 18 and older.
She said the clean up crew makes more money per hour, and it is based on a reward program. With hard work, every student has an opportunity to earn their way onto the clean up crew.
Education is key
Carolyn said it is important to educate the newcomers about “why” they are detasseling the corn.
“They really need to understand why they are doing what they are doing because if you understand the importance of your role, you do a better job. They will find their job more interesting,” she said.
Carolyn said the seed corn grown in Chatham-Kent is seed corn that will be grown out again n South America and then brought back to Ontario and multiplied again.
“It will multiply about three times before it’s final packaging as a commercial bag of corn,” she said.
“When the seed corn we are growing here is done being multiplied and is packaged and sold as commercial corn, it is often sold for production in Ontario, the USA, and other areas of the world. The corn the kids are touching is part of a much bigger agricultural picture. When I explain this to the students, they think it’s pretty cool.”
Why would kids wants to do it?
Carolyn said it is a great way for kids to make quick money and put some job experience on their resume.
“I am often the first job they have,” she said.
“I have come from a farm, but it was the corn crew that really gave me an interest in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to explore the agriculture industry. I try to teach them something while they are out there. I realize this is not their career, but if I can help build their career, then maybe detasseling is an opportunity to learn something about agriculture while you are at it.”
Carolyn said she is a big promoter of trying to get youth to consider agriculture as a career.
“There are huge job opportunities,” she said.
Pick-up in Wallaceburg
“We pick up students in Wallaceburg,” she said.
“We have four pick up points. Pick up is between 6:30-6:45am, and the bus returns to the pick up point at the end of the day.”
“When I say it’s family, I do treat these kids that way. It’s a family run crew and that’s what we run on, that makes us different.”
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