It seems like technology is taking over our world, so I’m never surprised when people tell me that they’re looking to move towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. But making it off-grid can be a real challenge, and one of the most significant determining factors for success is location, location, location. When I was looking for land, I was constantly facing obstacles like lack of water rights, strict building laws, or an environment that made growing a challenge.
So, what are the best states for homesteading? While you can make a go of homesteading just about anywhere, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Montana top the list, thanks to homesteading-friendly laws, plentiful water, good weather, excellent growing conditions, and the low cost of purchasing land.
If you are willing to battle for water, deal with tougher laws or higher property costs, or adapt to challenging growing conditions, Alaska, Wyoming, Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona are good options as well.
That said, every state has its challenges, and one person’s ideal situation can be another’s deal-breaker. Several factors make a state ideal for homesteading, including affordable land that contains good soil and access to water. Moderate temperatures help, though even those in areas with extreme temperatures can homestead – it may just take more effort.
If you can’t grow food, the local laws stymie you at every turn, or land costs so much that you have to work three jobs just to pay property taxes, a homesteading dream can rapidly become a nightmare. The perfect place for you is the one with the combination of factors that you’re looking for.
Best States for Homesteading
If you’re looking for excellent growing conditions, put Idaho on the top of the list. There’s a reason it’s the potato capital of the U.S. – the soil is naturally rich and loamy.
The local government is favorable to homesteaders, with lax building codes, and liberal homeschooling and growing laws. The state also offers a tax break to people homesteading. The landscape will blow your mind, and the land is still cheap in many areas. The state also has liberal foraging regulations.
With plenty of wind and sunshine, you can get your energy off-grid. Rainfall varies depending on what part of the state you’re in, but collecting rainwater is legal no matter where you live. As in all western states, water rights are vital, so be sure you know what you’re buying.
The downside is that summers are sweltering, and winters are freezing. The growing season is short in some areas, with frost in June not unheard of. You also need to watch out for wildfires during the summer. Jobs are harder to find in the northern part of the state.
Oregon is divided into two areas: the coastal, western part of the state, which gets plenty of rain and is perfect for growing a wide variety of plants. The downside is that land costs a bit more than the eastern half of the state.
On the east side of the Cascade mountains, the land is cheaper, but water is scarcer. No matter what climate you prefer, Oregon probably has something to accommodate you.
The state has liberal laws towards water rights and an astonishingly abundant range of flora and fauna to forage. There is plenty of fish in the rivers and ocean. Berries, nuts, and mushrooms abound in the forests.
There’s also lots of wood for building. If you plan on growing food to sell at a farmer’s market, you will have loads of buyers willing to pay top dollar in the larger cities like Portland and Salem.
The lack of sales tax is an added bonus, but income tax can be a bit higher. For a homesteader, you probably come out ahead in the end.
Like Oregon, Washington has tons of water, fertile soil for growing, and plenty of available land. Also, like Oregon, it’s incredibly focused on environmentally-friendly farming practices, which means healthier waterways and a thriving organic food market. That can translate to stricter regulations, however. The other downside is that the land can cost more – at least near the coast.
Washington has no income tax, and you don’t need a permit to sell the produce you grow on your homestead.
As in Oregon, you can grow food year-round with some care, and you can even raise foods that don’t typically thrive in northern climates, like olives, almonds, pomegranates, and citrus.
Tennessee is one of the few states in the eastern half of the U.S. that is ideal for homesteaders. It has plenty of rainwater, a long growing season, cheap land, and friendly state laws for people wanting to homestead. Many communities have lax building codes, and property tax is below average.
Tennessee has four seasons, though winters are mild. Despite this, it still has a period of freeze that is necessary for plants like fruit trees.
Unlike many of the western states, drought isn’t an issue here. The state gets an average of 53-inches of rain per year, compared with Arizona’s 9-inches annually. Many communities encourage rainwater collection for personal use. The land is fertile, and the cost of living is below the national average.
The downside is that you may experience tornadoes, flooding, and earthquakes. Foraging is prohibited in state forests. Some areas are hilly and have hard clay soil, making gardening a challenge.
Missouri has fewer regulations and challenges for the aspiring homesteader, including permissive laws towards collecting rain. The state seems to encourage the off-grid lifestyle with lenient building codes. Taxes and the cost of living are low.
The growing season is long, with warm – sometimes hot – summers and mild winters. There are plenty of natural resources for building. The soil in much of the state is fertile.
It’s not all perfect, though. Jobs can be hit and miss in some areas, and it can get extremely humid during much of the year.
Homesteading in Texas is all about location. You can find abundant cheap land in the drier areas of the state, but you’ll probably struggle to keep your crops irrigated.
Central Texas has more reliable water resources, but land can be pricier and the local laws tend to be stricter. In some areas of the state, timber and rock are plentiful for building, and the land is still reasonably affordable, even as you get closer to the big cities.
The growing season is long, though summers are hot. There is an active market in the state to sell home-grown goods, meat, and vegetables. Taxes in many areas are lower for people who are using their land for agriculture.
Montana seems to have it all: it’s beautiful, has more water than some other western states, and land can still be had for a song. On top of that, the state laws lend themselves to the self-reliant lifestyle.
The building codes are lax in many areas, cottage food laws are liberal, and there’s no sales tax. You can collect rainwater, but all other water is tightly regulated.
On the downside, the growing season is short, and the winters are harsh, but the summer is generally mild and not too humid. That said, you can get snow any month of the year. A greenhouse or indoor growing is going to be essential.
The mountainous areas have incredibly rocky soil, so grazing and gardening can be hard, but other areas of the state boast rich, loamy soil.
Wind is frequent in some areas, which is a bonus if you’re harnessing it for power, but it can also be a challenge. The state also suffers from an extensive and intense fire season.
Michigan is a gardener’s dream thanks to the fertile soil, though it has a shorter growing season in some areas. It also has abundant seafood, with plenty of trout and salmon in the rivers.
There are also loads of good hunting, particularly in the northern part of the state. Rainwater catchment is allowed, though all other water use is strictly regulated.
Michigan has a higher cost of living, property taxes are high, and the laws are stricter than many areas. Jobs are harder to come by in the north part.
Alaska often tops homesteading lists because it’s so remote. There is still plenty of land to be had for little cost, and maybe more than anywhere else in the U.S., you can get far away from it all.
The laws in Alaska are tailor-made for homesteaders. The state has a program called the Remote Recreational Cabin Sites program that lets you stake a claim on a piece of land, lease it for a few years, and then purchase the property at market value.
You can fill your freezer with moose and caribou in the fall, and salmon is plentiful in the rivers. The state also boasts no income tax and no sales tax.
The challenge is that the state has a short growing season, typically only from late May to early September in the southern area of the state. In the summer, when days are long, some herbs and veggies struggle.
For instance, cilantro and spinach are quick to bolt when days are 20 hours long. You can extend your growing season by using a greenhouse or cold frames. If you select your plant varieties carefully, you can grow things that may not typically survive in frigid climates, such as kiwis, grapes, apples, and onions.
Obtaining supplies can be a challenge, and heating can be expensive if you rely on oil. Before you drop a pile of cash on a massive swath of land, it might be wise to spend a few years there to make sure it’s right for your needs.
Wyoming is one of the most sparsely populated states in the U.S. – perfect if you’re looking for solitude. In many parts, you can get a lot of land for a little cash. Wyoming doesn’t have a state income tax, and the laws are tailored around farming and ranching.
The main drawback is a lack of regular access to water. The government doesn’t prohibit catching and collecting rain, but local communities frequently do, and all water sources are strictly regulated.
The other challenge is a short growing season – about 125 frost-free days per year. This is another place where you’ll definitely need to employ some season-extending tactics, like using a greenhouse or cold frames.
Wyoming is also pretty windy, which can be a challenge not only for gardening, but it can rip the shingles right off your barn. If you plan to use wind power, look at it as a bonus. In the summer, it can get hot, and the fire season is intense.
Arizona has plenty of land for the taking at a price that you can’t beat in any other state. The cost of living is low, and in the northern half, you can find incredibly cheap land with a mild climate and plenty of timber.
The problem with homesteading is that water is a serious consideration. You’ll need to drill for water, use rain catchment systems – which are encouraged by the state – or pick a site near a lake or river. Depending on where you live, you may need to truck in water, which is doable in times of plenty, but in drought – or when the SHTF – you might be in trouble.
Arizona doesn’t have the friendliest laws for building off-grid, and the heat can be oppressive, so you’ll need to adapt the type of plants you grow. Some areas have soil with a high pH, which will require some adjustment.
Maine has a robust local food movement and liberal local food laws. Basically, you have the right to sell whatever you grow on a homestead without the government getting involved.
The state also has liberal building laws, and in some areas, you can build without the need for a permit. A majority of the state is considered rural, and there is plenty of forest for foraging and rock and wood collection. There’s also plenty of water available.
The downside is a short growing season with harsh winters, so make use of greenhouses and indoor growing. The other challenge is high property taxes, though you can catch a break in unincorporated areas.
Ohio is another state where it’s all about location. In the southern half, the land is cheap, property taxes are low, and there are plenty of natural resources. The growing season lasts May through October, and you can extend it with indoor growing and the use of greenhouses.
Timber is abundant, and there is good foraging, including ginseng, which you can sell at the market for a pretty penny. Rainwater collection is encouraged, and the state rarely suffers from drought. Laws are friendly towards homesteaders, and some areas require few permits or zoning restrictions.