Low Cost Northern Wisconsin Land

In the early 1970s the price of northern Wisconsin land had fallen so low would-be homesteaders willing to navigate the purchasing procedure could obtain it for as little as $20 an acre.

| November/December 1973

  • wisconsin land - aerial view
    Aerial view of a Wisconsin homestead with lakeshore frontage.
  • wisconsin land - 4 panels
    TOP LEFT: Young deer on a rural Wisconsin road. TOP RIGHT: Making field repairs to a tractor. BOTTOM LEFT: Sheep in a summer pasture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wisconsin woodland in winter. 

  • wisconsin land - aerial view
  • wisconsin land - 4 panels

High real estate prices are one of the biggest deterrents to people who would like to go back to the land. Acreage is already expensive in any established farming or ranching area...and expanding urbanization, vacation developments and outright speculation are raising prices to astronomical levels in many regions.

There is, however, one part of the country that hasn't yet been ruined by speculators: a place where there's so little demand for farms that thousands of acres are continually going back to the county for unpaid taxes...and where productive homestead sites can be bought for $20.00 an acre in 40-acre tracts.

Northern Wisconsin land values probably provide the best example in the entire Midwest of a so-called depressed area. In about 100 years the area gone from wilderness to major lumber-producing region to farm country and is now—except for the localities affected by the vacation industry—fast returning to a primitive state.

The pattern was set at the turn of the century when the lumber barons stripped the area of its virgin timber. The logged-off land was then sold as 40-acre farms, mainly to immigrants from Scandinavia.

The Finlanders and Swedes worked miracles with the stubborn red clay and built cozy homes, old-world dairy barns, and sauna baths. They got plenty to eat from their land and it suited them fine. Many a 40-acre patch of Wisconsin soil fed and clothed a growing family.

As the 20th century wore on, however, it wasn't enough to be well fed and physically comfortable. The new generation coveted the great possessions of their city friends. The 40-hour week, the automobile and the television set—not to mention labor-saving appliances—all had their attractions.

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