From Cornfields to Law School

“I was sitting in this room full of attorneys who were picking apart my résumé during the interview.  The one thing they all kept coming back to was ‘You detasseled for NINE years?’”

Sarah (Hoefler) Kniep grew up in small town Firth, Nebraska, with three siblings. Her two older brothers had started detasseling at the age of thirteen. So when Sarah’s turn came around, she was thrilled to begin.

Although it was sweaty work and each day was exhausting, Sarah made sure to have fun. Her competitive and lively spirit kept her and those around her going. Competing against Holly Buell (Dawn’s daughter) in the field, mud fights at the end of the day, the friendships she developed, and the paychecks she received, created a community that lured Sarah back for nine years.  Two of those years she got the opportunity to be a bus assistant.

Though the memories she made were special, the character she developed during those summers left a great impact. She says, “It helped shape me into who I am today in such a positive way.” Each day the bus assistant or driver would pray before going into the field. That impressed Sarah, and that action alone set the tone for the positive work environment of NATS.

“Squad leading four kids for the first time as a fourteen or fifteen-year-old was a big deal,” Sarah expressed vigorously, “because I knew I was 100% responsible for those four rows.”

Detasseling takes mental fortitude.  Sarah emphasized how developing that mental strength to finish a job translates to any area of work. “It was rewarding to take ownership of my own work and get paid for it.” She still remembers ending each season and being so exhausted that she would consider not coming back the following year.  A few days later, the check would come and she would say laughingly, “Never mind, I love it!” While money definitely plays a role, Sarah said the focus at NATS is always on Christ and people— and that is why she loved it so much.

Sarah believes that NATS is a special company and what sets them apart from others is their heart.  “At some point in the season, our bus would stop at the McDonald’s in Seward and they’d order fifty ice cream sundaes for everyone on the bus, just because we passed a field inspection or had an extra-long day.”

Those extra-long days paid off because detasseling allowed Sarah to get through high school and college without having another job. She could make enough money to focus her time on studying and athletics, instead of having a part-time job. She worked for NATS up until her last year of college.

College was a time of excitement and opportunity.  During her junior year, nearing the end of her English major, she felt God leading her to pursue law school. She didn’t think she would get in but was willing to give it a shot.

Since detasseling was the only job she had until that point, she asked Dawn Buell to write her a recommendation letter. Not only was Sarah accepted into law school, she was granted a scholarship as well!  Dawn remembers receiving a personal letter from the Assistant Dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law, informing her that that letter weighed heavily into their decision-making process.

In her first year in law school, Sarah was applying for clerkships and put detasseling on her résumé. Although she had wonderful grades and was even on the prestigious Nebraska Law Review, during a second interview she was in for a surprise.  In a room filled with attorneys questioning her, the one thing that everyone kept coming back to was the fact that she had detasseled for nine summers. After commenting on it several times — somewhat with bewilderment — they concluded, “This shows more to us than any of your schooling ever could.” It was then that Sarah began to see more fully how much of an impact detasseling had had in her life.

After her clerkship and graduation in 2015, she again was applying for jobs. And once again, during the interview, detasseling was all the attorneys wanted to talk about. Sarah firmly believes that was a major reason she was hired.

Even now at the law firm, fellow attorneys who are introducing her to others will often add, “And she detasseled for NINE years.” Her green eyes sparkle with laughter while confessing, “I didn’t think detasseling would translate into the legal world, but let me tell you, it has had a huge impact.”

Sarah is forever grateful to NATS Detasseling for giving her such a positive work atmosphere at her first job. The determined thirteen-year-old girl, who slogged through muddy cornfields all those years ago, never dreamed of the impact that detasseling would continue to have in her life to this day.

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