ROCK COUNTY — A sixth generation farm is going back to its roots. We went to visit the Evansville, Wisconsin family’s nearly 120-year history, and why they changed to a certified organic farm. The farm is called Doudlah Farms Organics.
This is a photo of Mark Doudlah’s great-grandfather in the early 1900s, showing children how to cultivate organic fields.
Mark learned how to farm sunflowers, corn, beans and more with pesticides. Then, his father was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
“I used to beat my hands on my chest, proud that I was feeding the world,” said Mark. “But I really truly didn’t understand at what cost.”
That is when the Doudlahs decided to go back to fully organic farming.
“It’s not like I can go back to my great great grandfather and say, ‘Hey, how do you do crop rotations, and how do you do weed control?’” Mark said.
His son Jason, generation number six, learned quickly under his wing. “Between organic and conventional, it is maybe three times the amount of work just because of the amount of passes," said Jason.
Jason believes it is well worth it. “It is far more work. A lot more labor intensive. But I can live with myself," he said.
The cost of farming has also skyrocketed. “The equipment side of agriculture has really gotten expensive. The combines today with heads are $1.2 million," explained Mark.
The technology is far beyond the family’s first generation, which dates back to at least 1805.
This one has a built-in GPS, and will auto-drive on their 1,600 acres of crops within an inch of where they last drove.
“When we cultivate and we plant, we want to know where those rows are because we're no longer using herbicides to control weeds,” said Mark.
Because much of what they do now deals with computers and sensors, Jason is going to MATC for a degree in electromechanical technology to, in his words, “Fix things or build things, and it would make it cheaper than having someone come out and work on them.”
Mark believes he is setting up not just his family, but all of our next generation, to be a healthier and happier Wisconsin.