Northfield, Minnesota (often abbreviated Nfld) is the city in which Carleton College and St. Olaf College are located. According to the signs at the edge of town, it has 20,084 people.
The city was founded by John W. North in the 19th century. Early industry included lumber and flour mills powered by the Cannon River, which flows through town.
Northfield was at one time an agricultural center serving wheat and dairy farms. The "wheat frontier" moved west as railroads were built across North Dakota. Dairy operations and other more diversified farms developed in the area. The region now produces substantial amounts of corn, soybeans, turkeys, and hogs. Malt-O-Meal, a breakfast cereal maker, is all that remains of the milling industry.
Carleton College, originally Northfield College, was founded in 1866 on the north edge of town by New England Congregationalists, like those who had established Harvard more than 200 years earlier. St. Olaf College was created in 1876 on the western edge of town by Norwegian Lutherans anxious to preserve their faith and culture by training teachers and preachers.
These two institutions, which today enroll more than 5,000 students, have had a major influence on the makeup of Northfield. There are perhaps more pizza places per capita here than anywhere in the USA.
The city's motto, proudly displayed on signs at two of the highway entrances to town, is "Cows, Colleges, and Contentment."
Many of the buildings between 2nd and 6th Streets along Division Street in downtown Northfield are reasonably well-preserved examples of late 19th/early 20th century architecture.