When Jeff Merritt’s neighbor urged him to leave the farm to pursue an education, Merritt jumped at the opportunity. It’s not that he wanted to escape agriculture. Quite the opposite: He wanted to return home a better farmer after taking the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC), a series of lectures and hands-on classes taught by top agriculture experts and tailored to students’ needs.
The Farm & Industry Short Course has helped young farmers become leaders and innovators for more than 130 years. Merritt was recently featured in UW-Madison’s All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, in a collection of stories showing how the university’s work touches all 72 Wisconsin counties. He was selected, in part, for his leadership role in western Wisconsin’s agricultural community, where he owns a farm, helmed the Dunn County Holstein Breeders, and founded the county’s dairy promotion committee, which hosts a popular annual “breakfast on the farm” event.
“Twenty-two years later, the committee is still going strong,” he told All Ways Forward. “I’m really proud to see that others have joined and have passed on their passion for dairy farming.”
Four decades after taking the Farm & Industry Short Course, Merritt is still proud of his UW-Madison education, and with good reason. FISC alumni are a hot commodity, landing jobs as farm managers, technicians and more, in addition to launching their own businesses.
Even though FISC students are only on campus from November to March—the non-growing season for Midwestern farms—they get a bona fide Badger experience, enjoying traditions like “Varsity” and Babcock Hall ice cream while taking classes in soils, crops, livestock, agribusiness, and communications. In the spring, they leave campus ready to sow their newfound knowledge in communities throughout Wisconsin—and beyond.
For more information about the Farm & Industry Short Course, see here.