Welcome to Nature of the North: a community organization dedicated to enriching outdoor adventures, connections and experiences and making nature accessible to everyone in our community. While it sounds pretty cool right off the bat, it gets even more admirable when you really dive into everything this local business is about.
We sat down with Jon Walters, founder and CEO; Alisha Nelson, marketing and events manager; and Brody Morken, co-owner and finance manager; to get an in-depth look on what Nature of the North is really all about and why it’s important for our community.
What is Nature of the North? Based in downtown Moorhead, Nature of the North in its simplest form is a one-stop-shop for all things outdoors and nature-related. Walters founded the company out of his passion for nature and the realization that there was a lack of support when it came to outdoor hobbies. What is stopping people from getting outside? How can that gap be filled? Nature of the North seeks to break down those barriers and be a resource for nature enthusiasts of all sorts.
“We’re trying to create and build a sustainable outdoor community here. There’s a bunch of different groups doing a bunch of different great things but each has its own audience,” said Walters. “By becoming the go-to spot for all outdoor related things in the FM area, we can grow a larger audience and demographic to be able to share more of these events with more people. Half the battle right now is that there are people doing really cool stuff, but nobody knows about them. We’re just hoping to help bridge the gap.”
After four years of growing, finding an audience and listening to the needs of the public, Nature of the North has built a sustainable headquarters complete with a climbing wall, retail area, lounge, and everything you need when it comes to outdoor services. Nature of the North can help you unplug, recharge and create the fulfilling experiences we all so desperately long for in a world clouded by technology, stress and the inputs of life in general. From the moment you decide you need a dip into nature to the second you’re on your trip, Nature of the North will guide every step of the way for you.
Rentals & Trip Planning Nature of the North revolves around providing people with resources to make their outdoor adventures happen, and a large aspect of that is gear rental. Not only can Nature of the North help you get to where you want to go, but they can provide the right equipment to do so.
Let’s say your friends want you to go camping but you don’t have any proper equipment for shelter or sleeping, and it’s not in your budget to make a full purchase when you don’t know when you’ll use those items again. You’ll be able to easily rent items such as sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents and other camping trip items from Nature of the North. Specific hobby rental will be available later on down the line as well as things such as outdoor cooking kits, ski shoe rental, fire kits, bear spray and much more depending on what the community’s needs are.
And if Nature of the North can’t help you with a specific rental item, they aim to be a resource that can at least guide you in the right direction of getting what you need.
“We’re not trying to do what other people are doing and do it better. We’re trying to supplement the things that aren’t being done,” said Walters. “We want to move everyone forward, not build some big retail space and put Scheels or Beyond Running out of business. We’re trying to spread information and build up our outdoor community.” Nelson added, “We are not here to compete. We are constantly looking for partnerships and people to work with. Together, all ships rise.”
One of the more unique services that Nature of the North will provide that goes hand-in-hand with gear rental is trip planning. With staff on hand to help you plan your trip, there really isn’t much stopping you from heading into the great outdoors. Their focus will typically be within a 300-mile radius of the Fargo-Moorhead area, but it’s really not limited to that. Where could you drive on a Friday after work, set up your camp, hang out on a Saturday, tear down on Sunday and still get back home early enough to get ready for the week again? Where can you go as a family of four with plenty of family-friendly activities? What should you see along the way? That’s where Nature of the North steps in.
“What’s accessible and within driving distance? What are the activities you didn’t know you could access? We’re here to help you figure out where you can go with what you have,” said Walters.
“We can reach those people but get them farther away too. We can really offer trips for wherever people want to go – even if it’s out of the country. Where should you stop? Where should you make reservations? What route should you take? Are there permits required? We can help answer all of that for you,” said Nelson, adding “don’t worry, we won’t just give you all the obvious things you can Google yourself. We will help you plan a more personal trip involving some of the local hot spots.”
Memberships When it comes to having a membership at Nature of the North, you’re really catching a number of perks that go outside of a typical membership. Climbing day passes are available as well as 10-day punch passes, one-month memberships, month-by-month memberships and add-on options for family members. Youth, senior, student and military discounts are also available. Your membership doesn’t only give you access to the climbing wall, but operates almost in a co-op style in which the benefits also include discounts on rentals, workshops, trips, local businesses and overall supporting the goal of Nature of the North.
“We make it valuable enough so that even if you’re not a climber, you still find value in that $50 a month. The membership is you giving back to your outdoor community and helping us build that community, validating the need for us to grow,” said Walters. “We built this to prove that we need a good climbing wall in town, a public accessible one, and we need a place to rent gear. We want people to know that their outdoor community is important. Memberships are the number one way to prove to everyone else that our community needs this.”
And even if you’re not a member, you can still show up and show your support or even pay for workshops on the spot. “It’s really important to us that everyone realizes we don’t just offer memberships, but also give any person the ability to come in and try something new for a couple hours, even if it’s just for fun, “ said Nelson. When it really comes down to it, the Nature of the North headquarters is so much more than just a public climbing wall. The space that the company has built is really the coolest clubhouse in town where you can plan future trips, talk about adventures and past experiences, meet like-minded nature enthusiasts or even just hang out and buy a pizza or coffee. Nature of the North plans to host presentations, workshops, film screenings, writers, nonprofit groups and more in the space as well.
“With our membership, we’re working on things like providing deals at other local businesses, so everybody is kind of connected,” said Nelson. “Places such as Nickels Bike Shop, Hot Dog! Pet Salon, Swing Barrel Brewing, or Wild Terra. Even if we’re not able to be there, we’re still able to help each other out.”
Events For the last few years, Nature of the North has been continuously growing and cultivating an audience with various events and workshops in the area.
“Our workshops are aimed at teaching people important skill sets that make them feel comfortable outdoors,” Walters said. “Things like fire building, knot tying, and camp setup are vital skills everyone should know how to do.” No one should be excluded from nature, so we have something for everyone. No matter your ability, age, race, gender, religious beliefs, political stance, or sexual orientation, you are always welcome. Inclusivity and equality is something we feel strongly about and have zero tolerance for discrimination.”
There are monthly Nature Nights, a weekly bike ride every Wednesday, the annual Aronia Berry Festival or Tentfest, a book club, foraging workshops, weekly hammock hangs, seasonal trail hiking days, fire building classes, knot-tying tutorials, paracord workshops, future summer camps for kids and so much more. This aspect of the business will only continue to grow as people become more involved and new instructors come to the area with more ideas. The possibilities are truly endless. Plus a great spot to host your kid’s birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties, company meetings, and more!
“Part of this isn’t just about the outdoor community but the business community as well,” said Walters. “Let’s make it easier to attract talent out-of-state and retain that talent. Fargo-Moorhead is an amazing city with so much to offer. One thing we lack is an outdoor presence, so we’re here to change that. Plus, a thriving outdoor community attracts newcomers from out of state.” Walters also mentioned company discounts to those who want to enroll their employees at Nature of the North, stating “we love this area, love the people, and want to be another reason people call it home.”
What is truly special about this company is the genuine passion behind it, not just from the administrative side but from everyone involved with the company–project managers, photographers, volunteers, members, enthusiasts, instructors, you name it. The outdoor community that Nature of the North has built here is one-of-kind, and the potential it has to grow and have an even greater impact is truly exciting. Wake up, Fargo-Moorhead, it’s time to get outside.