Summer 2020

On Henry Mall

A male undergraduate in a vest and long sleeve shirt standing behind and leaning upon the bright yellow engine of an agricultural implement. Several other engines, red and green, rest on stands in the background.
Jason Doudlah, a Farm and Industry Short Course student, poses for a portrait in the Agricultural Engineering Laboratory at UW-Madison. Photo: Michael P. King


Jason Doudlah FISC’20 spent two years as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Steven’s Point, but after completing his general education courses, he didn’t know what to do with himself. Accustomed to a busy schedule — Doudlah has worked on his family’s farm ever since he was a young boy — he desperately needed something to do. The Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) at CALS seemed like the perfect thing to fill his time with more learning.

“I figured I’d . . . get my fingers into a little bit of everything,” Doudlah says.

The Doudlah family farm, located in Evansville, Wisconsin, is certified organic — all 1,500 acres of it. The farm grows a variety of crops, from corn and soybeans to more specialty products, such as pinto beans and flint and dent corn varieties. This past year, the Doudlah farm grew hemp for the very first time.

“There’s a big learning curve, obviously, learning a new crop, which is very exciting.” Doudlah says, “If it got too hot, you’d cook your seeds, which we learned the hard way.”

With FISC, Doudlah’s goal was to expand his horizons. Given his extensive farm background, Doudlah was already familiar with much of the material, but he appreciated that the program provides “a big overview of what’s out there.” And it wasn’t just the course material that stuck with him.

“It’s not the information that I’ve learned,” he says. “It’s just how it’s kind of changed me [and] the way I think.”

“It felt like he was always thinking,” says Jeff Nelson MS’95, an instructor for Doudlah’s machine class, “always looking to see how he could take what was going on around him and apply it to his own farm.”

Nelson was impressed with Doudlah’s attitude and approach to school. “He carried himself with a sense of purpose and confidence not normally seen in a first-year FISC student,” Nelson says.

In the future, Doudlah plans to stay on the family farm, representing the fifth generation to work the land there. He also hopes to pursue some of his own small-scale projects while continuing his family’s new tradition of organic farming, in honor of his grandfather.

“I lost my grandpa to mantle cell lymphoma due to the chemicals he was using when farming, so that drove us to organic,” explains Doudlah. “And I personally believe that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re not adding to the problem — we’re trying to fix it.”

Despite the challenges with organic farming, Doudlah believes it is a step in the right direction for farming, and in turn, for the world. “We don’t need sustainable agriculture,” he says. “We need regenerative agriculture.”

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