I agree completely with North Dakota's designation as the happiest state in the United States. As a fifth-generation North Dakotan, I wouldn't live anywhere else. There's a history as rich as the railroad is long (we're celebrating 125 years of statehood this year) and a future as bright as a sunflower field. The following are just seven of the many reasons why my heart is at home in North Dakota.

1) Life opens onto uncluttered prairie views that every so often include a majestic double rainbow. North Dakotans take the landscape for granted, but as new residents flock to the state for a fresh start in the booming energy economy, they stand in awe of the raw beauty of the sky.


2) Entertainment options, such as mutton bustin', are authentic to our rural roots. Eight seconds atop a sheep takes grit-and helping hands to snatch our youngest daughter before she hits the ground. Meanwhile, our rural communities are growing and downtowns are being revitalized-both of which encourage a plethora of activities.


3) The blue waters are flush with fish year-round. Lake Sakakawea and Devil's Lake have world-class walleye fishing. In the past decade, my husband has taught me to fish on the lakes and the Missouri River. These days, with young kids in tow, we stick closer to our prairie home near Wishek, where multiple generations enjoy fishing together. In the winter, the rippling waters give way to a frozen expanse, perfect for ice fishing.


4) Ninety percent of the land is farms and ranches, from amber waves of grain to rows of soybeans and corn to brilliant yellow fields of canola. The food and fibers that fuel our country flank long stretches of highway. My mom blogged from our family farm showcasing our commitment to the past, present and future of rural life in North Dakota.


5) Living here allows you to celebrate the bounty of harvest, whether from a garden, farmers market, a grocery store or field. In mid-August, just 20 minutes outside of Fargo, 110 people enjoyed a banquet in a field hosted at Peterson Farms Seed. The five-course meal featured 11 North Dakota crops (potatoes, sugar beets, canola, flax, pinto beans, sunflowers, soybeans, corn, durum, winter wheat and barley) as well as beef and lamb.


6) In the midst of winter's bitter cold and piercing winds, there's unparalleled beauty. The winter sunshine has a way of reflecting light through ice crystals creating sundogs that catch your eye and warm your heart.


7) While small towns mean smaller schools, opportunities abound. Usually there's no such thing as tryouts and cuts on sports teams. Everyone plays and everyone cheers. There's a sense of fellowship that draws communities and even rivalries together.


See more of Katie Pinke's photos on Instagram or read about her prairie life at The Pinke Post.