NEW RICHMOND, Wisc. - Quietly it sits at the edge of New Richmond, but 550 acres of winter-idled farm land has the whole town buzzing.
"Yes, it's a big deal, lot of talk, lot of hype," says Jamie Gibson, owner of Gibby's bowling alley.
On Feb. 23, Gibson's business will be the site of the most talked about auction in years, when the county-owned farm land goes up for grabs.
The St. Croix County Farm was once home to the mentally unstable and the destitute, living in the county insane asylum and poor house and providing labor for the farm.
The farm's livestock have been gone for years, but the cash cow is knocking.
"A perfect storm," is the way Gibson describes it.
For starters, farm land values have been skyrocketing as farmers search for every available acre to plant corn and soybeans which are selling at record prices.
Further, the county farm lies along Highway 64, a straight shot to the soon to be constructed St. Croix River Crossing at Stillwater.
The farm will be sold in seven parcels. The land nearest the highway might be chased by developers, while land further back could be prized by farmers.
"I would like to see a commercial developer buy it for either houses or a Target, Menards, that sort of thing," said Gibson, whose bowling alley is one of the closest businesses to the farm.
St. Croix County Administrator Pat Thompson won't even speculate on what the land might fetch.
"I'm not going to bite on that," he laughed.
A smaller parcel of farm land near River Falls recently sold for $8,700 an acre, feeding speculation the St. Croix County farm could bring the county several million dollars.
Thompson said the proceeds of the sale will help the county pay for some long overdue projects, including a new 911 call center.
St. Croix County will keep the farm's existing buildings, set on 30 acres, and its two cemeteries.
As for what will become of the rest of the farm, it's the best plotline in town.
The auction is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.
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