Homesteading: What Is It and Where Should You Do It?

Homesteading: What Is It and Where Should You Do It?

Outdoor and Gardening
Outdoor Additions
Sustainability
By Dikran Seferian September 26, 2022

Whether you live in rural areas, the suburbs, or a bustling city, living off the land might be something you’re interested in. That’s where homesteading comes in. Depending on where you live, building a homestead can be quite feasible or somewhat of a challenge. All journeys, however, start with a single step. One important factor to account for is location, with some states being more suitable than others. But first, it helps to get familiar with what starting a homestead really is and where it all began. Having said that, the next step is to define homestead.

What Is Homesteading?

Generally speaking, the term homesteading refers to a lifestyle that centers itself around self-sufficiency. This definition of homestead may have served as an umbrella term when the whole concept of it emerged in the 17th century. With the progress of civilization, however, it has evolved into something more refined and characterized.

The homesteading meaning nowadays varies along a spectrum from one individual to another. In other words, there is no defined way of building a homestead. Many homesteaders may aim to be completely self-sufficient which involves making use of their own land, bartering homemade goods, building their own houses (ideally with sustainable materials), and producing their own necessities such as food, clothes, and power. Others, however, will prefer a more conservative approach.

Many homeowners may consider themselves to be homesteaders just by adopting a few aspects of the lifestyle such as growing herbs and vegetables on their balconies or window sills — or maybe an indoor garden. Factors such as economics, location, and convenience may prompt them to take such measures. This can be subcategorized as urban and suburban homesteading and includes homeowners who reside in the city or the suburbs. These homeowners can be considered homesteaders since they technically meet the criteria — within the limits of their environment.

Now that the homesteading definition is clear, another question comes to mind: what is a homesteader? As implied above, a homesteader is essentially someone who strives to adopt a self-sufficient way of life — and supposedly owns a homestead or a home that functions as such. 

Homesteading is centered around adopting a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle.

Homesteading is centered around adopting a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle.

Is Homesteading Still Possible?

To answer this question, it is worth taking a sneak peek into the origins of homesteading. When Abraham Lincoln passed the Homestead Act in 1862, US citizens became eligible to obtain up to 160 acres of free land on which they could build a homestead, reside on the property, and do farming. In 1976, however, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act officially brought the program to an end — 41 years after Franklin Roosevelt seized public domain holdings for the sake of nationwide land conservation.

But is homesteading still possible? The short answer is yes. Although the federal government doesn’t grant free land for homesteading anymore, there are many ways you can find cheap land. As a matter of fact, many homeowners throughout the country are building homesteads. It’s all about finding the right piece of land. That being said, you will also want the soil to be decent enough for growing produce.

Fertile soil and a suitable location are crucial for running a homestead.

Fertile soil and a suitable location are crucial for running a homestead.

Best States for Homesteading

Now that we’ve gained a deeper understanding of the meaning of homesteading and we know that it is still possible, you may want to find out where you can best achieve the lifestyle. With low property taxes, charming scenery, and thriving communities, the following states provide the best conditions for a self-sufficient lifestyle. 

Tennessee

An ideal harvesting season that lasts nine months, in addition to excellent soil, makes the rural parts of Tennessee a great choice for homesteading enthusiasts. Let’s not forget the low property taxes, advantageous homesteading laws, rainwater collection allowance, and a number of other benefits. The state is even known to offer a homesteading property tax exemption of up to $5,000.

Idaho

Aside from sprawling green hills and gorgeous mountains, Idaho is also known for having perhaps the best soil in the United States. This easily makes it one of the best states for homesteading. You’ll have the choice to either build an isolated homestead or join an active sustainable living community. And much to the delight of homesteaders, government laws and property taxes in Idaho are quite convenient. As a matter of fact, the laws favor homesteaders over the government. Property owners can even get up to $100,000 protection from creditors. 

Blessed with rich soil and sprawling hills, Idaho is an excellent place for homesteading.

Blessed with rich soil and sprawling hills, Idaho is an excellent place for homesteading.

Oregon

Oregon is another go-to choice for sustainable living and always has been since the early days of homesteading. Those seeking a sustainable lifestyle will be welcomed with versatile climates, reliable water rights, remarkable farmer markets, and a vibrant community of homesteaders. In addition, married homesteaders are eligible for a tax exemption of $50,000 while single homesteaders are eligible for $40,000.

Maine

Boasting picturesque landscapes, plenty of vast lands, and low property taxes, Maine is another one of the best states for homesteading. The northern edges of Maine, in particular, are especially ideal for those who prefer an isolated property. Homesteaders in the Pine Tree State are also able to enjoy all four seasons. And while the winter periods tend to be long and cold, you can still find opportunities for farming — as long as you learn how to adapt to the region’s climate. 

Michigan

Much like Maine, Michigan offers four distinct seasons in addition to rich soil perfect for growing crops in certain parts of the year. Those who prefer catching their own food will be thrilled to know that Michigan is also a great location for trout and salmon fishing. Being popular amongst homesteaders, the state is home to a number of sustainable living communities. One common reservation around Michigan is that the property taxes aren’t as low as those of other states on this list.

Brought from the Netherlands in 1964, the DeZwaan Windmill is the only authentic and functional Dutch windmill in the United States — and a nod to Michigan’s homesteading culture.

Brought from the Netherlands in 1964, the DeZwaan Windmill is the only authentic and functional Dutch windmill in the United States — and a nod to Michigan’s homesteading culture.

Connecticut

The Constitution State provides a fantastic environment for homesteading. Besides the incredibly clean flowing water, Connecticut enjoys a perfect balance of hot and cold climates. There’s also a lot of potential in all aspects of the self-sufficient lifestyle, such as possibly homeschooling the little ones. However, you may want to take into account that the property taxes and startup costs tend to be on the higher side. 

Montana

The gorgeous landscapes of Montana make it one of the best places to build a homestead — if you don’t mind the cold winters. The tough weather, however, doesn’t pose much of a challenge for seasoned homesteaders who would love to settle in this ideal location for sustainable living. 

Alaska

It’s hard to think of another state that offers as much wilderness as Alaska. As a matter of fact, certain homesteading spots are so isolated that you can only access them by plane. This makes The Last Frontier an ideal place if you prefer a completely remote location. Of course, you’ll need to bear in mind that the winters there can be rather long and tough. Besides preparing your outdoor spaces for the cold, you’ll also need to have exceptional farming skills to be able to adapt your crops to the conditions; a decent greenhouse can come in handy as well. Consider getting familiar with the Alaskan culture and perhaps going for a trip before deciding to settle there permanently.

Alaska’s vast wilderness provides ideal spots for building an isolated homestead.

Alaska’s vast wilderness provides ideal spots for building an isolated homestead.

Wyoming

Wyoming is the place to go if you’re seeking an authentic sustainable living experience. Moreover, the vast landscapes and small communities make this state ideal for those who prefer a solitary lifestyle. You’ll also find excellent natural resources for farming as well as raising livestock. Surprisingly, Wyoming is not as popular for building a homestead as the other options on this list; and the tough winters might be the reason. Although this tends to hinder the crop season, a well-built greenhouse can solve the issue. 

Arizona

Although growing crops and farming the land in a desert climate can be challenging, it’s certainly not impossible. And if you’re looking to buy land for homesteading, Arizona is one of the cheapest states to do so. However, you may need to make sure the specific spot you’re considering is actually suitable for building and running a homestead. You will also need to check what types of crops that can grow in a desert climate, and be prepared for the intense summer heat. Another measure to take involves finding ways of storing rainwater for your crops and for your own needs.

DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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