If you’re looking to start your self-sufficient journey, here are the 8 best states for homesteading and off grid living.
Whether you’ve always longed to get back to the land and live a simpler life or the recent pandemic has shown you the weaknesses in city-living, homesteading is more popular than ever.
What Modern Homesteading Actually Is
Before we can analyze different states and their suitability for homesteading, we need to talk about what homesteading truly is: freedom.
Financial freedom, freedom of your time, and food and water security. Knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family is the biggest driver that leads most people to homesteading.
Living in an urban environment, you’re housing is more expensive, strapping you with a large financial burden. Your food, water and electricity are at the mercy of grocery stores and public utilities.
All it takes is an outage or a storm and things get very dire, very quickly.
Think about the storms in Texas. Granted, it was a freak storm that may happen once in 100 years, but 26 people died simply because they could not get ahold of basic needs for human survival.
To quote one of my favorite books:
Technology is a generous benefactor. To those who have wisely used his gifts he has bestowed freedom from drudgery; freedom to travel; freedom from the discomforts of cold, heat and dirt; and freedom from ignorance, boredom and oppression. But father technology has not brought us freedom from disease. Chronic illness in industrialized nations has reached epic proportions because we have been dazzled by his stepchildren – fast foods, fractionated foods, convenience foods, packaged foods…etc.”
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
While Sally’s book focuses on food and nutrition, you could also argue that father technologies other stepchildren are: complacency, dependence, a loss of survival skills.
For another one of my favorite books that inspires a homesteading life is The Quest of the Simple Life by William Dawson (available free on kindle or the Gutenberg project.) It tells the story of a clerk in old timey London who gets laid off and because they can no longer afford a London lifestyle, move to the country to start anew.
At first he’s ashamed and depressed, thinking he’s failed, but as he watches his children and wife become more happy and healthy from country living, he realizes how much of a blessing getting laid off was.
The homestead act of 1862 gave pioneering families free land if they built a new home and cultivated the land. There are still places today that offer free land, but my post on free land programs for homesteaders is the best place to start!
If you’ve been living an urban lifestyle in a big city though and haven’t the first idea about how to homestead, don’t fret! Check out my post on Homesteading For Beginners and # Homesteading Skills You Can Learn Today.
In a lot of the homesteading Facebook groups the same question comes up regularly: what are the best states for homesteading?
What to Look For In Homesteading Land
When I think about picking a place in the United States for homesteading, a few important factors come into mind:
- affordable land
- mild weather
- a long growing season
- relaxed state laws (about harvesting rain water for example)
- quality of water supply and water availability
- homeschooling regulations
- a like-minded community
- homestead exemption
- rates for renewable energy
Looking back and what homesteading actually is: Financial freedom, freedom of your time, and food and water security.
Financial freedom means land prices that are affordable enough you can pay for it with money you can make on your homestead. Check out this post for ideas on how to make money on your homestead.
Freedom of your time means also being able to afford land without a 9-5. You will still have work to do, but it will be at your own home with your family, not in a cubicle or freeway.
A long growing season, fertile soil, and enough sunlight and rain make for an easy time growing all your own food. Droughts, harsh winters, or natural disasters will make growing crops much harder.
To getting a better understanding of an area’s growing season, check out my post on understanding your USDA growing zone.
If your future homestead is very remote, or you want a better educational experience for your kids, you’ll also need to look into homeschooling laws. Some states are more homeschool-friendly than others.
A like-minded community and small town feel is also important. Very few people can being completely isolated and self-sufficient. Instead, lean on the strengths of your neighbors. Many hands make for light work. Ideally you’ll find rural areas with population density
As for electricity and water security – living in the country usually means you’ll be on a well, which means your water is yours as long as you can pump it out. Which brings me to electricity.
If you want to be truly off-grid you will need some way to generate your own electricity. Whether this is solar panels, hydro, generator, or wind power. Even if you are still hooked up to the electric grid, I highly recommend having a back-up source of power.
If your power line goes down (which is often does in the country) you need a backup way to keep your family warm and pull water from your well.
Which brings me to another important requirement for homestead states – your ability to disconnect from the grid.
Some states do not let you disconnect at all. You can have renewable energy sources providing all of your power, but they want to ensure you have a backup if necessary.
These rules vary by locality though, so make sure you investigate before you buy.
Along the same lines, some localities will actually provide tax benefits for installing a solar power system, or even pay you for your excess electricity (called net metering).
Which, if you’re planning on going solar anyhow, is a nice way to make a little excess cash.
As for homestead law, I’ll have a more in depth article about it soon, but a short version is that a lot of states will offer protection from creditors and reduced property taxes if a homesite is classified as a homestead. However, the rate varies dramatically from state-to-state, so research here is important.
So, with these requirements in mind, here are the best states for homesteading.
8 Best States for Homesteading
Alaska is the best state to settle in if you want complete isolation and don’t mind the long winter months.
Depending on your vicinity to a town you may have no choice to but to be completely off grid.
The up-side is that the land is cheap but you’ll pay for it with a short growing season. Another benefit is that Alaska has the lowest taxes in the United States.
There is no state income tax or statewide sales tax, meaning more money stays in your pocket.
Alaska has a wide array of natural resources such as fish and hunting, but you may have to import a lot of your fruit and vegetables which can add up.
Wyoming is a great state for low population density, and a community of like-minded people.
In Wyoming you’ll get wide open spaces and cheap land, but the soil is not as rich as say Tennessee or Virginia, and have long, harsh Winters.
Personal property taxes are high in Connecticut but the culture and regulations are friendly to rural lifestyles.
The water supply is clean and plentiful, the climate is mild and lends itself to lots of farming.
Connecticut is also friendly to homeschooling families, so if you know that’s what you want to do, Connecticut may be the perfect place for you.
If you want remote location, fewer state regulations, and a long growing season, Missouri is the right place for you.
It’s legal to collect rain water, has a mild climate, and a long growing season.
If the west coast appeals to you, Oregon is beautiful and boasts a strong community of homesteading and small farmers.
Known for its farmers markets, nice water rights, and good soil, relaxed building codes for your primary residence.
For example, if you want to build a earthen ship or tiny house Oregon is a good choice.
6. West Virginia
Land in West Virginia is very affordable, and has a progressive income tax rate, meaning the less you make, the lower your rate. It’s personal property taxes are low as well.
As for growing crops, West Virginia has a good growing season, 44 inches of rain per year, and fertile soil at the foothills of the mountains.
Tennessee boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire United States. It also boasts a long growing season, low property costs and taxes, and favorable building and off-grid living regulations.
8. North Carolina
If you’d prefer a southern state, North Carolina is a great place to look at!
A temperate climate, remote areas, and low cost of living make North Carolina an attractive option.
Don’t see your state on here? Comment below and share what you love about homesteading in your state!