FERTILE, Minn.-Like many small towns, Fertile seems to pop up out of nowhere.
Driving to Fertile, surrounded on either side by vast farmlands and forest areas, the small town of about 840 residents and its industrial park seem a little out of place. Suddenly, the farmland stops and there are a variety of small shops and neatly kept houses.
"Welcome to Fertile." A sign faded by harsh Minnesota winters greets those just passing through and those who may decide to stay awhile.
Becca Opdahl and her husband both grew up in Fertile and moved away.
"When I left, I never wanted to come back," Opdahl said.
But after going to school in the cities and living in St. Paul, Opdahl and her husband decided to come back home to raise their family. Opdahl now runs Opdahl's Donuts in Fertile.
The idea of putting her children through such a large school system wasn't appealing to Opdahl, she said.
"I really like knowing the parents of my kids' friends and knowing everyone they go to school with," she said.
Deb Mjelde, who lives in Erskine, Minn., but works at Opdahl's, said she loves the community in Fertile.
"People here say, 'Have a nice day,' and mean it," Mjelde said.
Opdahl and her staff said everyone treats everyone like a neighbor in Fertile. A customer who comes in for coffee almost daily will shovel the sidewalk in front of the bakery when it starts to snow, Opdahl said.
"And he won't let us cover his coffee. He insists on paying," she said.
Not only are the townspeople especially nice, Opdahl said, but there is an unusual collection of shops in downtown Fertile.
From the donut shop to Oistad Estate and Auction Service to Encore Consignment shop, Fertile has a wide variety of shopping.
"It's everything that you need without the hustle and bustle of a big town," City Administrator Lisa Liden.
Oistad Estate and Auction Service is one of the first businesses a motorist on Minnesota Highway 32 sees when driving through town from the north. With an odd assortment of things sitting out in front of the store, it is a sharp contrast to the pure white snow in the winter.
Liden said she is often the only person in the city office, which, in a town of about 840, is to be expected.
The city's office is located in the Duane Knutson Community Center, which also houses Fertile's library and food pantry.
Liden, like Opdahl, was born and raised in Fertile and moved away. Before moving home, she and her children lived in Dilworth, Minn.
After going through a divorce and being a newly single mom, Liden said she didn't feel Dilworth was safe anymore.
"When we first moved here, my nephew was visiting from Warroad (Minn.), and he and my daughter went to play at the park. They were about 13," Liden said. "Someone gave me a call and said 'I saw your daughter with a big guy, they crossed in front of us a little too close so I beeped the horn and he gave me the finger.'"
Liden said she then called her nephew and asked about the incident.
"He was like 'That happened three minutes ago, how do you know about that," Liden said with a chuckle. "Small town."
Everybody watches out for everybody else, Liden said.
"It's like the whole town is your babysitter," she said. "It's the main reason I came back."
Opdahl never imagined she would be running the donut shop that her mother-in-law started in her hometown, but she said she wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
"I just feel comfortable here," Opdahl said. "It's more than 'Minnesota nice.'"