Originally from West Central WI, but visited northern a lot.
Growing season is short, even shorter than central WI. but there are still a lot that farm or garden. Cool weather crops do well, as do things that need some cool weather near the tail end of their cycle.
I do know a person that raises tropical flowers in Duluth/Superior area so anything is possible (a few months a year)
If I were looking to farm full time, I'd head to central WI myself. soil is good, weather has enough variety, plenty of rain.
Pros - amazingly beautiful, not many people, tons of wildlife. There's lots of national forest up there. I wouldn't mind settling there at all. The land seems to be relatively inexpensive. Fishing and camping is *awesome!!*
Cons - winters can be tough. If you're near Lake S you might get more snow. As Mnn said the growing season is short. My grandparents had a greenhouse and also started seeds indoors. There will most likely be a lot of bugs..mosquitos, horseflies, gnats, you name it!
Depending on where you live there may be a relatively large city nearby but most often you'll find smaller towns. The roads I've seen are fairly good as well. If you can get up there to take a trip, I'd do so...maybe visit in winter so you can see what it's like?
Oh, you asked about the soil...lots of iron (hence Iron River, Iron Mountain)..etc. I'm most familiar with the area around Iron River, Rhinelander, etc.
Land can be cheap. With appropriate crops, the shorter growing season can be overcome. Snow can be a challenge. Jobs can be hard to come by, but that's pretty common where land is cheap-the two go hand in hand most of the time. The National Forests are amazing. It's a good idea to buy land that abuts them.
I grew up in S.E. Wisconsin, and bought a weekend cabin in the Nicolet NF. We loved it so much it became our primary home. Recently we moved even further north to the MI U.P. where land was even cheaper, again, in the National Forest. The winters are long, but we love it here.
i'm not sure if you have already moved to Wisconsin to homestead or not, but if you haven't I would try the Ashland/Washburn/Bayfield/Cornucopia area of extreme northern Wisconsin. There are farmer markets in each of the towns mentioned above, plenty of farm land, and although it is cold, you may like it here.
I live in northern WI, Vilas County near Minocqua and have for many years. If you like 8-9 months of brutal winters (-70 degrees at times accompanied by many-days-long power outages, frozen plumbing, frozen septic systems) you'll probably like it up here. We do have blizzards into May. If you're going to homestead up here, good idea to have a 4WD vehicle and a snowmobile.
Land and taxes are no longer cheap, especially waterfront properties. Whatever you do, don't buy a property with an existing structure on it prior to having a building inspector inspect it.
Growing season? Extremely short. Most of my neighbors and I have given up gardening for this reason. Our growing season is typically about 3-4 months long and most of the "soil" is extremely sandy and so it's difficult to grow much of anything before our first frost gets it. We typically get our first snow in September.
As Northwoods Mike said, jobs are hard to come by except for seasonal summer work because it's tourist season. Tons of people have summer homes up here but those of us who brave the winters and live here year round are few and far between.
Many who come up here to live and buy or start a business usually fail within the first couple years and are gone again because you basically are forced to make your living for the year during the 3 short summer months when tourist season is in swing.
The towns up here are small...the nearest good-sized town by me is Wausau which is an hour and a half drive away. The majority of us have to drive there or to Rhinelander (45 minutes away) to purchase non-touristy and homestead suitable items - at much inflated prices compared to central or southern WI.
If you're not proficient at repairs and would have to hire someone? Good luck. Most 'professionals' up here don't have the greatest work ethic and/or aren't as proficient at repairs and whatnot as they claim to be. But the locals can steer you to those who are proficient and will show up when they say they will.
Pro's to living up here? It is beautiful country. During the summer. Which last year fell on a Wednesday.
I think central Wi is far superior to northern Wi. Growing season is long enough with a lot more farmland and why there is far more wildlife than the baron North. When I go North for Bear hunting, it's amazing how little wildlife you see compared to a day in the woods in central Wi. Winter is kinder and shorter here...although land prices are high here because of the demand here.
THere seem to be a line around Tomahawk area.... Hwy 8 off hwy 51....farms kinda stop.
Lots of forests.....as in government land..... government forests
My grandfather came from the 'old country" in early 1900's....land was logged over....so sold cheap...Hazlehurst area.....
Family still owns a lot of land....no one farms.....mostly all left to seek their fortune in the city ..then moved back when they retired.
Gardens use heavy amendments.......
Even the family "pond" was named Dynamite Lake... (tamarack swamp) ...if you use enough dynamite....you may have a lake.
Most land is recreational...
If I was going to farm....I would move south to the middle /south of the state.
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