Homestead is the lifestyle committed to self-sufficiency. Homesteading encompasses subsistence agriculture, providing your own electricity through renewable resources(solar, wind, or water), and sometimes making your own textiles and clothing.
Some homesteaders aspire to never use money and prefer to barter. Other homesteaders aspire to provide as much as they can for themselves but might still use money and work for pay. This can be either during a transition or a permanent decision for homesteading.
Reasons for homesteading can be diverse and vary greatly. Homesteading is typically a social movement or an economic choice. Some people may be retiring with enough savings to start the homesteading lifestyle. Some homesteaders may be entering the lifestyle following economic hardship or as a way to come up from nothing.
Some factors to consider before starting a homestead lifestyle are:
- Friendly state laws
- Cost of land
- Safety of land
- Water accessibility
- Growing food
- Homeschooling children (and the laws surrounding homeschooling)
- The local homesteader community
- You and your family’s health
- Beautiful landscapes
Finding Homestead Land
As you would choose your ideal location to buy a home based on multiple factors, some states and locations have better conditions for homesteading.
For farming purposes, the most significant factor to consider is the availability of arable land. additionally, some states have free land for homesteading opportunities and can even come with extended tax benefits.
There are several types of homesteads and ways to start one. Some landowners with large properties look for long-term home sitters or land sitters. Outside of these opportunities, one would need to purchase their own land. Purchasing land gives the homesteader more freedom with what to do with the land but comes with a financial burden that can set them back when it comes to being fully self-sufficient.
In several states, local governments are actively giving away land to be used for small farms. Their goal in doing so is to hopefully bring more people into small towns and eventually expand jobs in the area.
Iowa has an overall low cost of living, making self-sufficiency easier, and very arable land great for subsistence agriculture. Since Iowa is a big farming state, you will also have a community of fellow farmers as neighbors. Additionally, Iowa has a 100% homestead exemption for up to 40 acres of rural land, low property taxes, very relaxed homeschool laws, and a solar tax credit up to $5,000. The downsides to creating a homestead in Iowa include the high cost of farmland, brutal winters, and the occurrence of tornadoes and flooding.
Wyoming also has a very low cost of living and a lot of arable land for raising animals and farming. Unlike Iowa, Wyoming’s cost of farmland is low and has no state income tax. People in Wyoming enjoy incredibly low property taxes, relaxed homeschool rules, and lots of sunshine great for solar power. If you’re planning on building a homestead in Wyoming, however, you should be aware of very little rain, high wildfire risk, and a short crop growing season.
Arkansas has a lot to offer when it comes to homesteading. The state offers unlimited homestead exemption, moderate farmland costs, low cost of living, long growing seasons, plenty of natural resources, and relaxed homeschooling rules. Arkansas is not perfect, however, as state income and sales taxes are high, there are no rebates for solar power, and if you’re looking to be a part of the local community, poverty, crime, obesity, and poor education are persistent issues in Arkansas. The state may be more ideal for those looking to live in solitude.
About 15% of the population in Idaho is farmers, so your community is one who understands the pros and cons of a homestead lifestyle. Idaho has a low cost of living, a fairly low cost of land, very relaxed homeschool laws, multiple tax incentives for installing solar, and property tax exemptions of up to 50% of the home value and up to one acre of land. If you’re looking to build a homestead in Idaho, you should be aware of the harsh winters, occasional flooding, wildfires, and earthquakes, and high taxes. Additionally, because of the state’s low cost of living and natural beauty, Idaho has seen an influx of new residents. This has caused the state to be a little more crowded and could lead to an increase in land prices.
Oregon is a great state for nature lovers with deserts, forests for hiking, and beaches for surfing. The cost of living in Oregon is relatively high, but farmland is still affordable. There is a strong homesteading community in Oregon (about 30,000 small farms), who enjoy no state sales tax, moderate property taxes, lots of resources, and relative safety from natural disasters. For those looking to use solar power, there are plenty of states and local tax rebates. Some of the cons of homesteading in Oregon are very high state income tax and only $40,000 is protected under the homestead exemption.
The southern half of Indiana is particularly good for homesteading. The southern half has fewer people and a longer growing season for crops. Indiana has moderate property taxes, relaxed homeschool laws, and relatively low state income tax. Unfortunately, there are 56,000 farms in Indiana, 96% of which are small, family-owned farms, so finding affordable land might be tricky. Additionally, Indiana is subject to frequent tornadoes and flooding, as well as high sales taxes.
Missouri is a very homestead-friendly state. The state gets a taste of all four seasons, but winters are a little milder than the Midwestern and western states mentioned in this article. The longer growing seasons and 40 inches of rain per year allow for successful crop harvest. Additionally, Missouri has relaxed homeschool laws and solar incentives. Unfortunately, Missouri has high state income taxes and farmland costs, is prone to natural disasters, and has multiple nuclear power plants.
Homesteading is popular in the western portion of North Carolina. Homesteading in North Carolina means you get high protection under the homestead declaration, high rebates for solar systems, low property taxes, and a long growing season. The cost of land is high in North Carolina, however, as are state income taxes and sales tax. If you’re looking to homeschool your children, the laws surrounding homeschooling are strict.
While Virginia is one of the best states for farming and growing your own food, it is a populated state, causing farmland prices to be high. The overall cost of living is high as well, homeschooling laws are strict, and the state is prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding. Despite this, Virginia is also a great state for homesteading as it has a long growing season with lots of rain, low proper taxes, a temperate climate, moderate sales taxes, and net metering and buyback programs for electricity.