Sunday, August 2, 2009

My life as a migrant worker

So I figured since I was here in Ohio, I may as well work in the corn fields and earn a little bit of cash. I started working for Monsanto, the company Jared is interning with, 2 weeks ago. My job title is corn pollinator. Sweet, huh? Basically, I walk up and down miles of corn rows and shake off the pollen from the corn tassle (male part) into a paper bag and stick it over the female part, the shoot (what becomes the ear of corn). Pretty exciting stuff, no? There are about 60 of us seasonal workers and we pollinate about 12,000 - 16,000 plants a day! That's over 200 plants per person every day...more if not everyone shows up. And that's really only half of what we do. The other half is getting the plant ready for pollination, but you don't need those boring details. My job may not be glamorous, but it is impressive.

Overall, it hasn't been as bad as I was expecting. It has been raining a ton, so that makes for very muddy, wet working conditions. My feet are prunes by the end of the day. The last few days have been gloriously sunny though, so that has been nice. The biggest surprise/pain has been getting what they call corn rash. This is basically the poison ivy of corn. It's common for most people who wear short sleeves to get a slight corn rash on their arms from the pollen falling on their skin and mixing with their sweat. It manifests itself as redness and slight itching. I already knew I was allergic to pollen, so I have worn long sleeves in the field every day to try and prevent this, but got it anyway. For me, it turned my arms and hands and neck into flaming red bumps filled with pus. We're talking hundreds of bumps. And every day, I would just get more bumps on top of my bumps. I've never had poison ivy, but I can't imagine it being much worse than corn rash. I would take a Zyrtec every morning before work and 1-2 Benadryll when I got home, lather myself in hydrocortisone and collapse into an antihistimine-induced coma for a few hours. This seemed to be the only routine that provided any relief. After several days, it got so miserable, they let me switch to a different task in a part of the field that didn't have as much pollen and my rash got much better. Thank goodness that is over.

The best part of the job has been being able to go to work with Jared every day. We're not always in the same part of the field, but I definitely get to spend more time with him than I would if I was staying home. So on the whole, it has been a good choice to go work in the fields. But the work will end this week and I can go back to reading blogs and biking around town full-time. =)


  1. you're a good woman jenn. not sure i could force myself to do that. and you don't even get a tan!

  2. ok, the corn rash isnt as funny now. but you gotta understand, i had never heard of a corn rash before, and you gotta admmit, its sounds pretty funny, so if you hear "and please help jenns corn rash to go away" in a prayer spontaneously, its pretty funny. sorry. lol. :)

  3. Corn rash? Jenn--I can't believe you got corn rash. I love that you kept going back--what determination you have.... I'm glad they gave you another job, so you can avoid the antihistamine stupors. I am super impressed by the job also--I worked on a potato farm for a half a day and I thought it was so interesting.

    PS I miss you on Friday! While we were there I kept thinking-I wish Jenn were here.