Northfield is a city in Dakota and Rice counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Most of the city lies in Rice County, and only a small part of the city extends into Dakota County. The population was 20,007 at the 2010 census.
This European-American town was founded by John W. North in 1855. Northfield was an early agricultural center with many wheat and corn farms. The town also supported lumber and flour mills powered by the Cannon River. As the "wheat frontier" moved west, dairy operations and diversified farms replaced the wheat-based agriculture. The region has since moved away from dairy and beef operations. Today it produces substantial crops of corn, and soybeans, as well as producing hogs. The local cereal producer Malt-O-Meal is one of the few remnants of Northfield's historic wheat boom. The city's motto, "Cows, Colleges, and Contentment", reflects the influence of the dairy farms.
Since early in its history, Northfield has been a center of higher education. Carleton College (then Northfield College) was founded in 1866 on the northern edge of town by the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches. St. Olaf College was founded in 1874 on the western edge of town by Norwegian Lutheran immigrant pastors and farmers, who were eager to preserve their faith and culture by training teachers and preachers. These two institutions, which today enroll a total of more than 5,000 students, make Northfield a college town.