Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Looking for farm work June 29, 2018

A southwestern Minnesota cornfield. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


BEAN WALKERS and detasslers. I haven’t thought about those two farm jobs in a long time. Because I’d rather forget those summer jobs that found me laboring as a pre-teen and teen in the fields of southern Minnesota. Intense heat and humidity made those hours in corn and soybean fields nearly intolerable. But it was a way to earn money in rural Minnesota back in the 1960s and 1970s.



And still today apparently. I was surprised to read a recent ad placed in a south central Minnesota shopper by crews looking for work pulling weeds in soybean fields, detasseling corn and picking rocks. Yes, I picked rocks from farm fields, too.


Bins peek above a cornfield between Faribault and Dundas. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Hire on to any of those jobs and you will understand hard physical labor. I realize conditions have improved since I yanked tassels, hoed cockle-burrs and heaved rocks from fields. But still, that farm work isn’t easy.

Tell me, have you ever worked any of those three farm jobs? Or tell me about a summer job you worked as a teen. What did it teach you?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “Looking for farm work”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    Oh the fun. I think about detassling every year in late July/early August. I can recall sever humid days; blazing hot seasons in the fields. I detassled corn for Brown Seed Co. for four maybe five years when I was in my early teens. I recall many days where I would first walk into the field in the a.m. and become immediately soaked from the wet corn and remained soaked the remainder of the day with sweat.

  2. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    I’ve never heard of bean walking. Was that more than pulling weeds? Oh how I hated the jimson weeds. Nasty, nasty things. My brothers did the detasseling. I’m not sure why the girls weren’t offered that job, but i’m betting it paid more!

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I never did farm work other than helping out in the garden on my grandparent’s farm but know that it is really difficult work. As a teen I babysat all the time and made decent money as I had three families who used me as much as I wanted to babysit. My big paying job was at the Dairy Burger cooking, and waitressing. It was great experience and I think every person needs to have a fast food or retail job. it teaches patience and skills at working with the public which are invaluable.

  4. Boy does this post bring back some memories! Detasseled corn, picked weeds, picked rocks, mucked stalls, chopped wood, baled hay, etc. If I was not on our farm helping on I was on a nearby neighbor farm helping out. We would barter apples for pumpkins, honey for homemade pickles, etc. I crave that simple life at times – it was hard work – but you felt good. I still carry that work ethic with me too – going to do something do it well and give it your best. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Mike Bauch Says:

    I grew up on a small dairy farm in western Wisconsin and pulled my share of cockle and mustard from the fields. The cockle was the hardest to yank out of the ground. yes, it was hard work. But what I remember the most about that job were the beautiful Tiger Lilies that grew wild along the fence line. Would always take a bunch to my grandmother.

  6. Claudette Says:

    In my area about 2 hours east of Toronto, a lovely place called ‘the County’ is full of family owned farms. Every summer they encourage families with kids to spend part of their vacation with them helping with exactly that: farm work. In return you can take home a basket full of whatever the farm produces, plus a bit of cash.

  7. Murphy's Law Says:

    No farm work here, but I have great respect for farmers and their hired hands. Incredibly hard work keeping us all fed.

    I babysat, 50 cents an hour! That included feeding kids, doing the dishes, bathing them, playing with them and reading to them. Not to mention answering endless nonsense questions and bringing them many glasses of water !!

    It was definitely good training for patience, being vigilant around these kids, and an idea of what it would be like raising children.

    And I went ahead and raised two girls anyway!!! Lol.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    • i am laughing at your last line about raising two girls anyway.

      my initial babysitting job paid only 25 cents an hour for caring for four kids, who were terrors. then i landed a weekly Saturday evening job watching one girl AND was paid 50 cents an hour. AND I got a TV dinner. AND soda pop and snack. I got to play with Barbie dolls and read books. pretty sweet.

  8. Almost Iowa Says:

    While hitch-hiking around the country, it was always easy to get work during hay season. The scent of hay, the physical work and lasagna at 10:00 am – those were wonderful days.

  9. Randy Says:

    Worked many days and hours picking rocks. These guys have 25 years experience. I remember a sign at a tavern, rock pickers wanted- no experience needed. Makes me wonder who might be the better employee.

  10. I did a lot of farm labor myself on our own farm in the late 50’s. Our farm was near Montevideo. I remember when the corn picker broke down the whole family was picking corn by hand, and of course I helped out bailing hay and even plowing. I was very young in those days. Me and my sister didn’t mind the work, but my brother hated it.

  11. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    What! no pollinating tomatoes for Farmer Seed? Best tan ever, but couldn’t eat a tomato for a good many years after. Down by the water dept field below the hill that leads up to the St. James property. Had jeans that could literally stand alone every day. Babysat a lot summer and all year. Worked St. Lucas kitchen and Schuelhle Drug. My sr. year finally got a year off before going to work at The Leader. We lost Dad early, just Mom and me.

  12. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Farmer Seed must have owned or rented the land that is now the city compost site. In 1958 Public Works was there already. We weren’t a big crew, they bused/trucked us from their 4th St. site. Because I lived across from the Deaf School football field, I’d often walk home – you know, when it was still safe to do that. Had some east side friends that would come down on their bikes too. We started early, but rain or shine we pollinated tomatoes. Every other row would be let to go to seed, we ate ourselves sick. Seem to remember a few tomato fights too. Manually we’d have little glass pieces, move the pollen from one row to the row that would later be harvested. I’m guessing it was their hybrid field. Hot and dirty, mom used to kid me I could walk out of my jeans and shorts, they’d stand alone. My first job, got a SS card. By ’59 I worked the kitchen at St. Lucas, by ’60 I was clerking at Schuehle Rexall Drug. I think ’59 I also babysat for our upstairs renters baby. When you’re left alone with a teenage daughter, the operative word is BUSY! Wouldn’t have traded it for corn detasseling for the canning factory for anything.

  13. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I remember picking corn by hand! I’m not sure if they created the job to shut me up and get me out of the house. I also remember a summer of picking pop cans out of the trash pit so they could be recycled. 🤮

  14. Sue Ready Says:

    well I have never had farm experience but do you have any idea what the hourly rate is for these advertised jobs?

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