Prairie Farm is an incorporated town
of 508 people in the rolling rural farm
ing country of western Wisconsin
. It lies in the southwest corner of Barron County, abutting the Hay River (really more of a creek), approximately 40 miles northeast of Eau Claire
and 80 miles northwest of the Twin Cities
area of Minnesota
The town area consists of a main street, River Road, which is Barron County routes A and F, and one parallel street on either side of River Road a block away. There is a gas station, a small grocery store (Sheri's), and two bars (The Viking and the Panther Den). The elementary, middle, and high schools, all in one complex, serve the town and nearby areas. Industry is limited to a machine shop at the southern end of town. The municpal park, Pioneer Park, lies across the Hay River dam from the town. At any point within the town one can see the surrounding barns, silos, and fields of corn and soybeans.
Much of the population consists of retired farmers and forms a tight knit insular community. Many are half-year residents. Some of the remaining population is employed in surrounding towns such as Ridgeland and Barron, and it is there that most locals turn for services such as supermarkets. A few residents of the region commute to jobs in the Twin Cities area.
Prairie Farm was the first settlement in Barron county and in fact claims to have been settled in 1848, when western Wisconsin was a vast wilderness. The initial settlement was for a logging camp and was near an area where French Canadian fur traders were operating. A final battle in an ages old war between the Chippewa and Sioux Indians took place near the town as both groups were being pushed out. Although the loggers and Canadiens were the fist non-native residents, it is the descendants of the German, Dutch, and Norwegian dairy farmers who arrived to clear and settle western Wisconsin several decades later who today form the bulk of the population. Some nearby towns are home to a few Mexican migrant workers and the Montenyard immigrants from Vietnam who have arrived in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but Prairie Farm itself has remained 100% white. There are a few units of low income public housing in Prairie Farm, which thanks to Wisconsin's innovative welfare programs, have from time to time housed former residents of city housing projects, but at this point they seem to house exclusively locals.
The local diet is, not surprisingly, extremely unhealthy, being based on butter, cream, meat, starch, and fried food - leading to almost universal obesity in those over 25. Local activities are limited by the small population, with the nearest movie theatre or restaurant many miles away. Still, Prairie Farm seems not to be plagued by small town social ills such as alcohol consumption and petty crime to the extent that similar sized places in other regions of the country are. The people are very nice.
Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live there.