Prairie Opportunity?
November 22, 2005 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Free land. Northwest North Dakota has an opportunity for 5,000 people. Not the first 5,000... the right 5,000. odds are, you are not a candidate for nw north dakota. you have succumbed to the cities. all of your pleasure must be provided and you gladly stand in long lines to receive them. but if you are of those who is wondering what they are doing in that line, continue this may be the journey you have been waiting for, but had no idea where the line was to get tickets. it's ok; there are no lines in nw north dakota./small> They're doing it in Kansas, too.
posted by Kwantsar (49 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Please fix my HTML. My apologies.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:25 PM on November 22, 2005

I'm from Kansas and would never live in the middle of Kansas. The geography sucks (no trees, flat terrain, no bodies of water), the weather sucks (bitter cold winters, hot summers, violent thunderstorms/tornados) and a lot of those counties are dry too. Eastern Kansas along the Missouri border shares enough Ozarks characteristics to be habitable with woods, some rolling terrain, ect. The middle of Kansas is essentially a desert, it says something when you can't give the land away.

Because of the effects of the Rocky Mountains western Kansas is even worse.

Of course prime territory if you want to be alone, don't have neighbors to bother you and grow a certain weed for a few years while you save up enough to buy a house in the city.
posted by geoff. at 2:30 PM on November 22, 2005

But what are they giving away in North Dakota? They don't seem to mention that part. Free land? How much? Where? Just surface rights?

Bored minds want to know.
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on November 22, 2005

Free land... for people rich enough to buy it anyway. Oh, and don't forget that you need "high moral character" (aka be a conservative WASP).
posted by VanRoosta at 2:33 PM on November 22, 2005

North Dakota's most valuable resource is not wheat, livestock, oil or coal; it is its people.

I thought the whole point was that they didn't have people? I also like all the BYOJ-O-B warnings. Ferocious winter, no jobs, ghost towns with a few stubborn inhabitants holding on offered as a plus: woo, sounds like paradise.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2005

Actually, they say "We do not offer any free land."
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2005

Looking through the North Dakota site, it mainly seems to be an ad for getting people to move there. The "Northwest ND Marketing Alliance" is the responsible party. I didn't see anything about free land. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough, but searching the whole site for "free land" turned up nothing, for instance.

The Kansas site indicates that the free land is for residential homes. A lot less is available for 'commercial property.' I wonder which category a small farm would fall under?

On preview: what MrMoonPie said.
posted by jedicus at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2005

North Dakota: We do not offer any free land. We offer you and your family the opportunity to live in our land of pace, peace and purpose.

posted by rolypolyman at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2005

And why do I need to apply with them to do that?
posted by rolypolyman at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2005

A picture of western North Dakota from our family vacation along the Lewis and Clark trail two summers back. There is some real beauty there (though not so much in my picture!), especially in the long light of a summer evening. But damn it is a very long ways from anywhere, economically depressed, and cold cold cold for much of the year.
posted by LarryC at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2005

This kills me--suburbia without the 'urbia.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2005

With your ticket you'll find:

"We have front doors that are usually locked only at night or while on vacation."
Because that's when the zombies come.

"We have clean air…and lots of it."
As opposed to your claustrophobic cities where air supplies are dwindling and your oxygen rations are limited.

"We have clean water. Get a boat, there’s plenty of fish to catch."
And when you drink that water, remember that fish have been shitting in it.

"We have milk cartons without pictures of children."
We hide our child abduction problems for your peace of mind. Drink your milk now, it tastes better than that fishy water.

"We have top-notch schools. Some are rural, some are very rural."
Because rural = top-notch! Now assume the position.

"We have magnificent wildlife and very few bite."
But they do stampede.

"We have businesses that know your first name and use it."
Dear Jimmy: This is your third and final notice. Next time, the kneecappers come.

"We have jobs that require commuting 4 to 8 minutes."

"We have low cost business space to rent."
Well I reckon I can rent you this barn for two bits a week, but watch out for them chickens. They gots some large talons.

"We have four distinct seasons, three are absolutely beautiful, one is 'very' distinct."
Not too cold, too cold, damn cold with snow, cold and wet. Distinct one is the snow one. Here's your parka.

And woodchippers!
posted by brownpau at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2005

Let's all just watch "Fargo" and put this discussion to rest!

/fires up the chipper/shredder
posted by HuronBob at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2005

In North Dakota, even ghost towns are on the roster of dozens of small towns giving away land and incentives in six counties listed on the Prairie Opportunity website.

(Telemundo) aired four segments about northwestern North Dakota between May 24th and May 27th. Correspondent Allan Villafana highlighted housing, lifestyle and job opportunities in the area, especially the "free" or low cost land available in Stanley and Mohall. The correspondent also spoke with Hispanic residents who had relocated to those two communities.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2005

This would be great if they didn't expect me to be a valuable member of society. The selling point seems to be getting away from it all and being isolated from urban culture. But it seems all they really want are your tax dollars. According to the Northwest North Dakota Marketing alliance, there's very low unemployment, but there aren't very many available jobs so you'd better be ready to move out there. And for the free land in Kansas, they expect you to bring some kind of economic development to their sleepy backwater towns. I doubt the value of the land you'd be getting is very high in the first place.
posted by kyleg at 2:50 PM on November 22, 2005

Oh, see also the related thread.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2005

"We are interested and I will like to obtainig a land"
posted by sellout at 2:55 PM on November 22, 2005

Do you (or spouse or both) have job portability?:

[job portability is defined as a job providing you income without concern to of the community you reside in to support it]

In your current location, is your household income considered average or above average?:
Are you retired and/or financially secure?:

[financial security] is defined as having an income that supports your current lifestyle without working

If you answered "yes" to questions #1 AND #2, or to #3 alone, please continue
Yeah, that sounds like a real opportunity . . .
To FREEZE to death.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2005

Wasn't Wyoming or somewhere going to offer free Green Cards in a desperate attempt to attract people in?
posted by A189Nut at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2005

You can't rag on ND. It does suck for city folk, but for those of us who want to be surrounded by nothingness, it's ideal. If this was true, I'd be all over it. Anything to get me the fuck out of here. At some point, the noise will get to be too much. The noise is everywhere. It is driving me insane. And what kyleg said too. I thought the idea was to come to ND for peace. Doesn't (a gentleman's) society sort of make it impossible to live peacefully? Not so sure about Kansas though. That's some barren shit.
posted by panoptican at 3:17 PM on November 22, 2005

Laugh NOW, folks.
In twenty years, thanks to global warming, folks who live in North Dakota will be living in the tropics!
posted by Floydd at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2005

There used to be a population requirement to join the US as a state. It seems like if the population drops below a certain point they should just become a territory again.
posted by bshort at 3:21 PM on November 22, 2005

Do they have the blacks there? I'm not moving somewhere with too many black people...
posted by jonson at 3:23 PM on November 22, 2005

Darn you Kwantsar and Brownpau and your liberal flip flopping ! Why do you hate Northwest North Dakota so much you have to
diss every single opportunity it offers ? Certainly it's no land of the rich, but would the rich elites offer an opportunity
to american workers ? Surely not as they're afraid of giving opportunities away, but in their immense selfishness they hope
nobody notices North Dakota opportunities hidden behind some superficial roughness, just waiting to be taken.

We have businesses that know your first name and use it."
Dear Jimmy: This is your third and final notice. Next time, the kneecappers come.

Ahah that's so funny, you making fun of the financial difficulties of ordinary people. But it's no fun when the
letter comes, it's not so fun when it's written in the elaborate language behind which the elites hide. It's the same
old same old, so why should North Dakota be worse ? Yet, at least the cost of life is reduced thus making living more
affordable and there's no luxury car daydreaming influencing the youngsters seducing them into drugs and easy money.

"We have milk cartons without pictures of children."
We hide our child abduction problems for your peace of mind. Drink your milk now, it tastes better than that fishy water.

Ahah very funny, making fun of child abduction just proves your complete disregard for the tragedy their families
live. So I guess that having less child abduction would give you less opportunity to make "witty" jokes and that entertains
you oh-so-much. Ridicule and despicable.
posted by elpapacito at 3:23 PM on November 22, 2005

This is really a last ditch marketing attempt to stop the spread of North Dakota ghost towns. Ghost towns happen for a reason though: the mine dried up, the railroad didn't pass through, the family farm can't compete with farms further south and fast and efficient shipping. I don't think ND sucks. It's not where I'd want to live but it doesn't suck.

The rich white man requirements are because they're trying to re-establish small businesses. The strong moral fibre stuff is creepy but you don't move to a rural area for a hedonistic lifestyle.
posted by substrate at 3:25 PM on November 22, 2005

Most people have a problem with living in a northern climate where winters can present themselves with a magnificent ferocity.
"Magnificent ferocity" Golly, with heating costs soaring this sounds like BIG fun!

Cabin fever vs. bird flu... I guess I'll risk the flu. Having to go out in -20 degree weather to shovel off the roof is a joy I'm going to have to skip in this life.
posted by Marky at 3:25 PM on November 22, 2005

if i could do something like this in my current situation, it would be the u.p. for me ... but north dakota might be alright ... on the other hand, there's lots of small towns within 30 miles of me i could move to ... i like small towns

and the winters wouldn't scare me ... we can have some fairly hellish winters around michigan, too
posted by pyramid termite at 3:33 PM on November 22, 2005

I grew up in NW ND. You couldn't pay me enough to go back.
posted by felix betachat at 3:36 PM on November 22, 2005

This is some god-awful rural development. As someone who used to work in rural development leadership/youth/entrepreneurship training in Nebraska, I can speak with some authority that this is fucking dreadful:
The Northwest ND Marketing Alliance (NWNDMA) was formed in the spring (May) of 2002 as a non-profit organization. It is presently comprised of a volunteer apolitical grassroots group of people from a broad base of occupations and backgrounds. Those who are participating in this activity are interested in finding methods to market a multi-county region externally both nationally and internationally. You can become a member by sending the annual fee of $20.00 to the alliance.
The really, really irritating part is that this NPO is probably getting federal money for this asinine "program-that-isn't-a-program." That's federal money that, I can assure you, does not come from North Dakotans pockets.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:50 PM on November 22, 2005

Um, if you were "financialy secure" why would you need free land? You could buy some land in a hell of a lot nicer place...
posted by delmoi at 4:53 PM on November 22, 2005

North Dakota has the lowest murder rate in the Nation. Because you could spin around in a circle while holding down the trigger on an automatic rifle and not hit a soul. Try doing that in NYC.

It's a spectrum, and I'm pretty sure I'm somewhere between those extremes.
posted by Eideteker at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2005

Whoa. Property taxes are high. $3100/yr for a home selling for $244K. That's considerably higher than, say, the Seattle area.
posted by bz at 5:43 PM on November 22, 2005

I grew up in NW ND. You couldn't pay me enough to go back.

I grew up in NE ND. I don't think I've ever BEEN to NW ND.

And despite the fact that I'm from the eastern part of the state with the big fancy cities, you still couldn't pay me enough to go back. to live. visiting once a year is okay.

ps: fargo is in SE ND. It's actually really far away from NW ND. In more than just the literal sense.
posted by flaterik at 5:57 PM on November 22, 2005

Put it this way: If this was a great idea, don't you think that Canada would be doing it with its VAST available land and low population?
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:12 PM on November 22, 2005

The depopulation of the northern plains, and the probably fruitless attempts to reverse it, is a glimpse of the future. As the world population levels off and then falls, many places will go through similar cycles. It is hard to imagine anything that would reverse it.
posted by LarryC at 6:32 PM on November 22, 2005

The strong moral fibre stuff is creepy but you don't move to a rural area for a hedonistic lifestyle.

They might, if those darn hedonists would just move out there and establish a hedonist community with hedonistic values.
posted by namespan at 6:44 PM on November 22, 2005

All of your pleasure must be provided and you gladly stand in long lines to receive them.

Thanks. Fuck you too, North Dakota. I receive much pleasure from my daily morning walk.

Start making sense, and I'll gladly listen.

We do not offer any free land.

Simply boggles the mind.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:16 PM on November 22, 2005

The interesting thing is that 150 years ago, the US got the bright idea that all of these empty spaces needed to be cleared of their native inhabitants to make way for "Settlers" from the east coast and europe to come in. Guess what? The idea has been a failure. Instead of going through these embarassing gymnastics to convince people to move to ND, the state should just "close up shop." Evacuate the last holdouts in the ghost towns, hand over the land titles of these outer areas to Washington, DC, and renegotiate the treaties with the native tribes. If a state government is really that necessary, ND could just merge with South Dakota.
posted by deanc at 7:30 PM on November 22, 2005 [2 favorites]

If it will make any of you more tempted, you can consider NW North Dakota as "Eastern Montana." Not as good as Western or Central Montana, but still better than most other places.
posted by davidmsc at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2005

Is this targeted towards individuals getting "free land" to build a house on, or is this targeted to Wal-Mart as "free Land" to build a supercenter on?
posted by Balisong at 7:34 PM on November 22, 2005

When I was a kid, I remember a lot of controversy over a proposal by some sociologists out East who proposed to depopulate the Great Plains and return the land to its pristine state. They called it Buffalo Commons and the proposal was met with scorn and derision in local newspapers.

But, what sociologists couldn't do in the 1980's, demography seems to be accomplishing quite well. The idiocy of this scheme and the ham-fisted way it's proposed (Come, you hearty and financially secure few, and live on the plains. We have email now!) make me think that there has to be something else going on.

There are too many misspellings for it to be advertising. But they're not offering anything that makes it look like a government or NGO project. My guess is it's a bunch of chambers of commerce that met at a conference, got some cash from the state and put together a website without much infrastructure on the back-end.
posted by felix betachat at 7:41 PM on November 22, 2005

The strong moral fibre stuff is creepy but you don't move to a rural area for a hedonistic lifestyle.

I've spent most of my life in rural areas and you'd be surprised. There's something about knowing that the neighbours are never gonna complain no matter what you do.
posted by fshgrl at 10:58 PM on November 22, 2005

Go take a nap, elpapacito. It was very funny. Maybe you've been out in the cold too long, your sense of humor got frozen. I imagine those hearty NW N Dakotans would have a good laugh.

Low cost of living isn't low when there are no jobs paying enough to live. I've experienced depressed rural living. It's depressing! (Almost the UP, Pyramid Termite, but across the border in Iron County, WI). I lived there 6 years then got tired of it.

As for cold: Winter is easy to deal with so long as it stays frozen. It's the freeze/thaw cycle that makes it difficult. Real cold is dry, and you can dress for it. So what if you have to run your car for 15-20 minutes before you drive it (because otherwise, your breath will freeze to the inside of the glass).
posted by Goofyy at 3:56 AM on November 23, 2005

Kickstart70 writes "If this was a great idea, don't you think that Canada would be doing it with its VAST available land and low population?"

There are many small towns giving away building lots in Saskatchewan, usually you just need to pay the development cost. Bizarrely the ones I've looked at are small lots say 15x30. I would have expected a hectare or so as an added incentive.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 AM on November 23, 2005

Ahh, homesteading. Nice to see it coming back into style. I frankly always wondered why some nutty dotcom company didn't say to themselves "Ya know, for what we are paying for a 20,000 square foot office in Seattle/San Francisco/Manhattan, we could buy an entire city on the Great Plains!"

But frankly, Winter in the Dakotas can be a terrible thing.
posted by ilsa at 8:50 AM on November 23, 2005

Northwest North Dakota has an opportunity for 5,000 people.

Huh. And then what happens? Do they close their doors? Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Gotbucks, but you are 5001 so we are putting you on the waiting list. You just have to wait for someone to die.

High moral character is also reflected in our low crime rate.

It has nothing to do with the extraordinarily low population density at all. We are just very, very moral people. All that magnificently ferocious weather and clean water-- it makes you wholesome. No thoughts of crimes ever enter our heads. No sirree bob! Those few passing thoughts of murdering our entire families? Just passing. Really. Usually passing. Hardly ever happens!

Young people grow up well rounded, knowledgeable, and in touch with reality.

Rubbing elbows with other cultures? Museums? Opera houses? International events? World-class symphany orchestras, ballets, theaters? We don't need that stuff. You have to stand in line for that stuff. Now that we got the internets our home-schooled kids are touching reality every single day. Shoveling chicken manure AND learning the times tables, now that's what we call well rounded!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:15 AM on November 23, 2005

A more accurate picture of life on the Great Plains would be Kathleen Norris's excellent Dakota.

NW ND is where I was born, grew up, and spent my 20-mid 30s. Like anyplace else on earth, some stereotypes are true, some are laughably false.

Red state? Jeez, the entire congressional delegation is completely Democrat. And there are certainly pockets of liberalism in NW ND. This is the area that gave birth to the Non-Partisan League, the most successful populist movement of the 20th century. The area is loaded with "Farmers Union Democrats", who may be financially conservative but socially pretty liberal.

There are definitely narrow-minded, provincial yokels there, but you'll find them just about anywhere. The last two generations of farmers are mostly college educated and are probably holding down another job besides farming.

Jobs are definitely scarce. Demand will always be high for teachers or medical personnel. Some of these towns have been successful in bringing in some type of customer service or data-entry type businesses. Those are the towns that will survive. And the oil business is starting up again. Most of this area has oil under it. A little further underground than the oil companies would like it to be but drilling has begun again.

Religion. It is very important but there not fundamentalists by any means. I would say over 90% of practicing Christians up there are either Lutheran or Catholic. Which leads to-

Social life. To survive in these communities, you have to be involved. There's a myriad of small civic organizations and boards, and they're always looking for new blood. But the biggest things in these towns are the churches and the schools. If you belong to a church, you'll be accepted and given responsibilities until you scream ENOUGH. High school sports are the end-all be-all. People in ND watched the movie Hoosiers and wondered why the people in Indiana didn't take basketball seriously enough.

You should also like to be outdoors. A lot. It's not just hunting and fishing. There's a lot of room with not many people so you have to get out and enjoy it. Hike, bike, snowmobile, skate. But staying inside cuts you off from the land. And the land, the prairie dominates everything.

Winter. Yeah, it's cold. And everyone is used to it and deals with it.

Now, would I move back there? No. I couldn't do the work I do back there. And there's not a decent restaurant until you get to Bismarck (or maybe Minot but I doubt it). But for a small business owner, or someone who works off the Internet, it's not a bad place to be. They tolerate eccentrics much better than you think. Many towns have T1 Internet connections. Housing is dirt cheap. Someone mentioned a $250,000 house with too high of taxes. Good lord, you could probably buy a 3000 sq foot house up there (if you could find one) for less far less than that.

Anyway, don't be so quick to dis fly-over country. It's still a good place to grow up. And for some, still a great place to live.
posted by Ber at 9:47 AM on November 23, 2005

I'll second the Norris recommendation, Ber. Reading Dakota in my early 20's was like reading an ethnography of my own culture.
posted by felix betachat at 11:14 AM on November 23, 2005

delmoi: Um, if you were "financialy secure" why would you need free land? You could buy some land in a hell of a lot nicer place...

Same thought flashed through my mind, too. I mean, the people who gots money and a portable job could surely take advantage of more attractive options.

No 30-below nights in the Virgin Islands...
posted by darkstar at 6:56 PM on November 23, 2005

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