Homesteading is defined by a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. In an age where technology does most of our thinking, many people are considering changing their ways and living off the land as many of our ancestors did years ago.
Off-grid living is not for everybody because of the amount of physical effort and time that it requires to make everything work. It’s a process of learning to grow your own food, raise animals, create your own energy and waste disposal systems and make anything else you need to survive.
For those who didn’t grow up in a farm-like environment, this will be a huge learning curve. At the same time, a lot of peace comes in knowing that you don’t have to rely on someone else for your survival or your food. It pulls us out of the rat race and helps us live organically.
Homesteading is also not necessarily an individual endeavor. Although some people can live alone for months on end, humans were not created to live in solitary confinement. Many homesteaders create communities with their “neighbors” even if they live miles away from each other.
Thousands of people are migrating to the countryside and turning to this way of living. A good reason to become self-sufficient is that many people spend hours in front of a computer and less time with their families.
Their countless hours of work do no more than provide food for the table and cover the bills, so why not invest that time in making your own food and learning new skills that your family can also participate in? It’s becoming a more authentic way to live, for those who are tired of technology running every part of their lives.
What are the best homesteading conditions?
Many factors can influence your decision on where to settle in for your off-grid journey. Consider what your priorities are in becoming self-reliant.
Are you looking to disappear off the map completely or do you still want to live somewhat near the rest of civilization? Do you want to buy a cheap property with lots of acreage? Or do you want to grow your food in the most favorable conditions?
Answering these questions first will help you narrow down on a state that best meets your wants and needs.
There is not a perfect state or ideal location that provides everything we could possibly want, otherwise all the homesteaders would probably move there! While we may have to give up some desires in exchange for other benefits, there are several options to choose from.
Consider these important factors:
- Friendly state laws and taxes: Research the state income tax, sales tax, homestead law, and the local laws (pertaining to building codes and such) once you've determined the location you're interested in.
Most states offer homesteading laws but some are more favorable than others in terms of protection during times of hardship. This is a great resource to help you determine which state has the friendliest homesteading protection laws.
- The average cost of land: Don’t be immediately fooled by low property costs or land prices. Some states have affordable land but expensive property taxes. Based on the cost of the estate you want to purchase, you can determine if you’re able to afford it once you take into account all the taxes that will get added to it.
A homestead exemption may be available but it varies from state to state. In some cases, the homesteading exemption may reduce your property taxes. In which the state will oftentimes deduct a percentage of the property’s value.
- Safety of the land: These are some helpful links to help you narrow down what areas are environmentally safe and which ones aren’t in terms of drought, superfund sites, fracking, and oil refineries at risk. Once you've found an area you're interested in, look into their crime rate statistics as well.
- Water availability: Some states are known for having an abundance of water, such as rivers and lakes, whereas others are known for their consistently dry climates. Look for areas that receive generous amounts of annual rainfall.
State water laws and water rights will vary due to the amount of water that is available in that state and region. You need water to survive so make sure to research the water and rain catchment laws in the states you’re considering homesteading in.
- Growing food: The main dream for many homesteaders is having the space and freedom to grow their own crops. Not only is this healthier than buying it at the store but homegrown always tastes better.
Make sure that the place you’re looking to settle into has a climate that has lots of potential for growing food, in other words, a longer growing season and fertile soil. In a temperate climate, you can grow crops for ten months or more.
Research the types of crops you want to grow and if the climate will work in your favor. For the winter months, a greenhouse might also be a possibility.
Look into the laws that might affect raising livestock, as different states have varying laws with respect to animals.
- Homeschooling children: If you plan to raise your family in the countryside, you may need to homeschool them. Visit this page to read about the homeschooling laws in each state.
- The community: As previously mentioned, homesteaders build communities wherever they go. It’s important to research communities instead of just surveying the land before you decide to buy it.
Whatever your political and religious views are, you will find yourself at greater peace living within a community that shares similar values. Fitting in amongst the members of the community will serve as a huge advantage to you and improve transitioning into the homesteading lifestyle.
- Climate: Something to definitely consider is the climate of the town you’re planning to move to. Find a place where the seasons will suit you. Some people love experiencing all four seasons and others, myself included, prefer warm weather all year.
- You and your family’s health: Health is something extremely important to consider. I do believe that living off the land will improve your health dramatically because you will be eating less produce with pesticides and considerably less processed foods.
On the other hand, if you live very secluded from civilization your chances of getting to a medical professional quickly in an emergency are unlikely. If you have children and/or pre-existing medical conditions, consider rural areas that have a nearby hospital.
- Natural disasters: Every state is prone to natural disasters, but some have a higher average than others. While researching where the best place to start your homestead is, learn about the natural hazards that affect that state specifically. Here you can find a list of states which highlight the main disasters affecting each.
- Beautiful landscapes: If you’re going to be in an off-grid location, you might as well enjoy the view. Every state has its unique beauty and natural resources. Picking a homesteading location based on landscape depends on what kind of scenery you prefer.
The good news is that you can make homesteading work in almost every state if you are determined enough to do it.
Thoroughly researching and getting a feel for the rural town you’re considering settling in will open your mind to the advantages and disadvantages that are present there.
No place is going to be perfect and every place will offer a different set of challenges, but overcoming those challenges is part of the fun of living off the grid, is it not?
It’ll make a big difference in your experience if you know what to expect before you settle there permanently.
Top 12 homesteading states
These are some of the states considered to be the best for homesteading in the United States.
Alaska has a low population density and is mostly a solitary state where it becomes a true relationship between you and the wilderness. To give you some perspective, the 2000 census revealed that nearly 95% of Alaska's 665,400 square miles had no permanent population.
Some locations are so remote that you can only arrive by plane. I’m not necessarily suggesting going that far but if pure solitude is what you’re looking for, there’s no better place than this. This longed-for peace comes at a price because the winters are very harsh and demanding.
It’s probably a good idea to spend a year living in Alaska before deciding to move there full time. People that are not used to the change in climate often underestimate the struggles they will later face surviving the winter.
It would also help to talk to the locals who have spent their entire lives under those harsh conditions and can surely offer you better advice than anyone else. In any case, Alaska boasts some of the most untouched natural beauty in the US.
Wyoming will give you the feeling that you’re living in the early time of the settlers or cowboys. The small population and wide open spaces are perfect for nature lovers who are seeking solitude.
It’s a very diverse state offering resources in ranching and farming, although homesteading hasn’t completely caught on just yet.
The negative thing about Wyoming is the harsh winters which can make the growing season short and difficult. This is a state where you’re probably gonna want to build a greenhouse.
Arizona lies in a desert. New farmers may have a hard time growing their food here, but it's not impossible. It’s one of the best choices out of all 50 states in terms of buying the cheapest land.
If you’re on a homesteading budget look no further than this but first, check with the local city laws to ensure you will be allowed to build your dream self-sustainable home. Some laws could be strict depending on what you’re envisioning creating.
Also, it’s wise to gain some insight into the kind of food that can be grown in hot climates. Not only can the heat become unbearable during the peak summer months but naturally it’s a place that is more susceptible to droughts.
The average rainfall in the state can vary from 3 inches in the southwestern region to 40 inches in the eastern central region. You will have to get creative with rain catchment systems and other resources to save plenty of water for yourself and your crops.
On the other hand, the average 300 days of sunshine it receives a year makes it a great state to implement solar power or solar energy systems.
Montana is a beautiful state. Many consider it one of the most visually appealing places to live, especially near the Rocky Mountains. For many, it’s a homesteading haven.
The summers provide a mild climate and the winters are harsh, making the growing season short and possibly rough. Many accept this challenge as an opportunity to expand their creativity in their endeavor of becoming self-sufficient.
Maine has incredible landscapes, scenery, and plenty of open land to start your off-grid living. The northern part of Maine is less populated so it’s an ideal place for those who want to enjoy solitude living and low property taxes.
You can enjoy all four seasons there and still grow crops if you can learn to use the climate changes to your advantage.
Connecticut is a small-farm and homestead-friendly state. Unfortunately, property taxes are higher than in a lot of other states so the start-up costs are outrageously high for most people.
On the flip side of that, it has plenty of benefits. Apart from the picture-perfect scenery throughout the rural parts, the water is clean and plentiful, the climate is typically mild, and there is a lot of potential in terms of farming and agriculture.
You may need to work the land a bit to lighten the rocky terrain but your efforts will be worth it. Connecticut is also homeschooling-friendly, so if you’re looking for a place to raise and homeschool your children, this may be the state for you!
Michigan is a diverse state which offers the experience of all four seasons although winters may feel longer than the other three seasons. The soil is fertile and rich making it a wonderful place to grow crops, during a short part of the year. It’s probably a good idea to look into building a greenhouse. Lake Michigan also provides the ability to fish for trout and salmon.
There are many homesteaders and farmers markets in Michigan so you are sure to find many like-minded people. Most people that live in Michigan love it there, even though the higher cost of living and the strict state regulations are forcing some people to migrate to states like Missouri.
Missouri is a very homesteading-friendly state. There are fewer state government regulations that provide people with more freedoms to live the way they want to on their property and easily build their small homestead.
It’s such a diverse state that anyone is sure to find a place they can enjoy. Sounds like a dream, right?
It’s also legal to collect rain in this state which typically gets an average of 40 inches of rain per year! In Missouri, you may not feel the extremes of the four seasons but you’ll get a taste of them for sure.
Summers are typically hot and humid and winters are warmer than some may like although on occasion you may get snow. The bonus is that you will reap the benefits of a successful crop harvest!
Kentucky has beautiful scenery and provides a strong community of thriving homesteaders, small farm owners, and off-gridders.
The state offers a generally mild and moderate climate, however, the four seasons are still distinct. The good soil and weather are favorable for agriculture. There's a high demand for locally grown produce. The Bluegrass State is also a safe state to live in and raise a family.
3. West Virginia
West Virginia offers a great place for self-sustainability due to its diverse yet favorable climate. With approximately 44 inches of rain per year, you wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough water to tend to your land, crops, and personal needs.
West Virginia is perfect for its low property taxes but zoning restrictions in rural properties are becoming more strict so the sooner you buy land there, the better.
The rural parts of Tennessee offer some of the most beautiful homesteading locations in the United States. In Tennessee, you will have the pleasure of fully experiencing every season while obtaining a plentiful harvest for about nine months out of the year.
Tennessee has a lot to offer in terms of low property costs and taxes, favorable state laws, and fertile land for growing your own food. The state government allows people to collect rainwater and offers many other freedoms for what you can do on your property.
It's no surprise that this state is one of the highest in the nation when it comes to the number of small farms.
Idaho is the state with some of the best soil in the country, making it the best choice for homesteading. The state is beautifully green with hills and mountainsides.
If you like living away from people but not too far that you’re completely isolated, this is the perfect location for you! Plus, the government laws are pretty favorable too!
Did your favorite state not get ranked?
I'm sure some of you are surprised that many of the major farming states are not mentioned under the top 12.
If you don't see your state listed here, don't get discouraged! It doesn't mean that homesteading there would be a bad option altogether, but I encourage you to really look into what the state has to offer to see if it's a good fit for you.
A few honorable mentions include:
- Mississippi for being the cheapest state to live in (based on the national average) as well as its long growing season.
- Kansas for its low cost of living, as well as the free land it offers to its transplants. As of 2019, the 6 rural towns with free land include Marquette, Mankato, Lincoln, Plainville, Osborne, and Wilson. The lots in each small town (which vary in size but can be up to an acre of land) are offered with the agreement that the property owners will build a home on it within a specific number of years.
Kansas is also one of the windiest states, so it's a place to consider if you're planning on using wind power as a means to produce your own electricity.
Choosing the ideal homestead location depends on your needs, wants, and likes. One out of the fifty U.S. states will surely have what you’re looking for.
Narrow down your list starting with the states that meet your needs, and go from there. Once you have an idea of what state might be a good match for you, research all your questions and make sure you have a clear understanding before making a final decision.
It might help to take a road trip and explore the state in person and get to know the locals in the rural towns.
My best recommendation for those of you who are serious about starting your homesteading journey is to inform yourself as much as you can prior to moving off the grid. The internet has a vast amount of information and most of it is available to us for free.
Living off the land and off the grid was not easy for the pioneers and it most likely won’t be easy for us either, especially if we have little notion of the demands that homesteading has.
The idea of growing our own food and becoming self-reliant comes at a huge price but an even bigger reward. Don’t be discouraged by what hardships you might encounter.
The majority of families who started homesteading wouldn’t trade their lifestyle for anything else in the world. If it’s in your heart, I think you should pursue it. But I also think you should go about it wisely.
Thanks to the resources we have available at our fingertips, we can become equipped to succeed in the midst of difficulties.
I wish you a successful endeavor in your journey towards self-sufficiency.
Have you moved to the countryside and built your own off-grid estate?
If so, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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