A new back-to-the-land movement has helped swell the population of the country's southeasternmost rural municipality by a tenth and saved the local school from closing.
Launched about a year ago in Misso, the "Come to the Country" campaign run by the nonprofit Tule Maale has now spread to several other counties, but Misso has posted by far the best results. The student body in the school and nursery school for the upcoming academic year has doubled, ETV reported.
Paul Nurme, who runs a resource center for traditional homesteading, was one of the first to take the offer of a job and a free place to live. "It was just the push I needed to come and make my plan happen," he said.
An adherent of the eco-village ethos, he is now the proud owner of an industrial hemp plantation that will produce both fiber for use in construction and food-grade seed.
"It can be used in cement compounds, everywhere. Many of our village buildings will be baled fiber houses under a clay mortar," said Nurme.
Typically, the back-to-the-landers get a job (milker jobs at Nopri pay €600-700 a month) and a place to live for free on a farm. That's a fair-sized haul for a settlement of 500. The national Bring Talent Home campaign yielded only 27 repatriates in total. In the case of Misso, people moved to one of the country's poorest, most remote areas.
Moreover, these are not, say, drifters living in an unheated room in one wing - all told, 16 families with 32 children between them have moved to Misso.
"In terms of children, we now have just as many [coming in] as there were in all of Misso," said Nopri farm director Tiit Niilo, the project initiator.
People are still coming, too. Triin Valdmaa and Tarmo Brauer are the newest transplants. "We're both people who dream of living in a house of our own. It's an ideal opportunity made as simple as possible, to obtain your own house to live in," said Valdmaa.
The house they moved into was a fixer-upper that MTÜ Tule Maale and the Nopri dairy, a large employer in far southeast, had renovated to the point of only needing finishing. It has an insulated foundation and full water and sewage hookup.
MTÜ Tule Maale director Katerina Puusepp said industrious and can-do families are welcome and that candidates should be self-sufficient and proactive. "We are open to them and Misso will not fill up, there is no cutoff for accepting new people."
There are currently ten openings in the Misso area - cooks and service personnel, farm workers, joiners, a driver with C category license and a science teacher.