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Best place in the US to start a homestead  RSS feed

 
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If you could live anywhere in the US, from a strictly homesteading perspective, where would you live?  What reasons would you live there?

I'm currently in Italy in a contract position but I will be moving back to the US in another year or two. I could potentially move just about anywhere. I would like to find a place where a wide variety of things can easily grow, the cost of living isn't terribly high, and where the laws are lenient so that I can sell home grown/made goods without having to jump through too many hoops.  I would love to hear about places that fall into this description, but I would also love to hear about your reasons why a place is good for homesteading. Thank you!

 
Posts: 87
Location: out in the woods of Maine
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My last duty station where I retired was Naples Italy.

Returning stateside we decided to settle in Maine.

Most of the nation suffers from repeated droughts or 'water-stress', Maine has no such issues.

Most of Maine is rural and it is over 92% forest. I bought two forested parcels, one of which was marketed for $350/acre.

There is a sub-culture here pushing for 'Food Sovereignty' [which gives all land-owners the right to sell whatever you grow on your land]. It keeps USDA inspectors out of the process, if you grow carrots you have the right to sell your carrots, and I as a customer I have the right to buy your carrots.

Most townships here lack building inspectors. I was able to build our house myself. Our building permit came with a certificate of 'self-inspection and completion' for me to sign when I was done building it.

Maine has always been among the top 5 states for gun rights. We have a constitutional right to Open Carry and to Conceal Carry.

The 'snow-belt' region downwind from the Great Lakes is known for snow storms that can dump many feet of snow in a single storm. This region is basically "Grand Rapids-Detroit-Cleveland-Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Ithaca-Scranton-Albany-NYC-New Haven-Hartford-Springfield-Worcester-Providence-Manchester-Boston".  Not very much of Maine dips down South into that region. Here in Maine we may get that quantity of snow spread out over the course of the entire winter, a couple inches one week, a couple inches the next week, and so on. Maine gets a lot of summer tourists from the snow belt. They think we are heroic for living here since we are North of them, they think we must get 10X more snow than they get. But they forget that we are not in the snow belt.

 
Posts: 134
Location: SW Ohio
17
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I'm thinking about Kentucky because A) property is fairly cheap and B) a wide variety of food plants/trees can grow there. There are lots of deciduous trees and caves and stuff. I'm somewhat biased as I grew up near Kentucky and went to my grandmother's hometown Somerset in southern KY for vacation as a kid. While some people are pretty backwards, I think in general people have the attitude that what they do on their property is their own business, plus there's a sizeable Amish population, so I don't think people will be hounding the city government about your weedy chicken patch. A lot of people already have weedy chicken patches. Also as a commonwealth it appears to maintain (from my perspective) more autonomy than other states have. Don't get me wrong, there ARE some backwards-ass people and institutions there. But for the mostpart they're not eager to breathe down your neck if you're in a rural area. So assuming you're not planning to enroll any children in public school... I think it's a decent place to set up camp.
Things I worry about as far as Kentucky are... ticks. People who have lots of shotguns. Ginseng poachers. Sinkholes. Cows wandering around in the middle of the road unattended. Groundwater contaminated by fracking. Brown recluse spiders and copperheads. Things I DON'T worry about with KY... tropical storms, drought, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. Every place has its own pros and cons and micro-cultures... Near Lexington, there's a town called Berea that apparently has lots of hippie and folksey sorts living there, it's a college town. I'd rather find a property on the edge of the Daniel Boone forest though.
That being said I love cherries so Michigan and Washington also have appeal...
And necessary disclaimer, I am currently perma-FAILING so take my advice with a grain of salt, it's not based on success but just my own imagination and research. I'll get there eventually...
 
Posts: 172
Location: Western Washington
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Galen Young wrote:

Most of the nation suffers from repeated droughts or 'water-stress'



This is 100% true, and very important. Even regions once considered temperate and wet (like the Pacific Northwest) are now having to consider water issues very carefully. You'll have to figure out what challenges and limiting factors you're willing to put up with. They include hard winters, availability of water (very important), as well as other considerations. My advice is to quickly make friends with like minded people wherever you go. Those sort of connections can really make or break your life out here.

I love the pacific northwest, and our ability to grow food is really amazing. The variety that I'm able to grow here is incredible. In orchards alone people grow apples, pears, quince, mulberries, peaches, apricots, walnuts, hazelnuts, persimmons, and a whole host of old timey and rare fruits that are rarely heard of these days. With special attention being paid to micro climates there are even people growing olives, pomegranates, almonds, and citrus outside of greenhouses here. If you live here you will have to look into water saving and rainwater collection depending on where you live, as the summers are dry. But we can grow food year round, which is excellent. Other regions and states are great, this is just the one I chose.
 
Miranda Converse
Posts: 257
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Thank you all for the suggestions!

I didn't realize that about Maine and the snow belt. I grew up in Massachussettes and never wanted to go back because I didn't want to deal with massive amounts of snow they get. I do love the falls in the northeast. And actually, one of my favorite teachers from highschool is homesteading up there. He taught environmental science and taught us all about building eco-friendly houses.

I did forget to mention that I have a daughter who will be going to school in a few years. So, unfortunately kentucky is probably pretty low on the list. I actually have a great property in Florida right now but that's one of the reasons I am hesitant to make that our homestead. The education is just not that great there. Also, Florida is not the greatest place for small business from my experience.

The pacific northwest sounds interesting. I've spent my whole life on the east coast so I'm pretty familiar with it. I have only been to the west coast once and that was just to Los Angeles so I don't think that is a good representation of the northwest.  Are there any states on the east coast you can compare it to? I have zero idea of what it would be like there. Are the laws relaxed in regards to selling what you grow?


 
James Landreth
Posts: 172
Location: Western Washington
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I lived in upstate New York for a few years before coming back to Washington State. I hope I never have to live in a place with so much snow and cold ever again.

The schools in Washington and Oregon are generally good, especially compared to some other parts of the US. If I understand correctly, in Washington there's also a fair number of options (depending on where you are) for homeschooling and homeschool hybrid programs. At least, there were ten years ago.

The laws are pretty relaxed here, in my overall experience. I know a fair number of people running farm and food businesses out of their home kitchens with legal permits. I believe selling produce in Washington is legal without a permit. For example, you can set up a stand without a permit (I think) so long as you have legal permission to be wherever it is the stand is at (a parking lot, the side of a road on someone's private property, in front of your own house, etc.).

I'd say Washington and Oregon are similar in some ways to Vermont and the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. There are liberal people some places, conservatives in others. Beautiful summers. The winters here are milder than they are there, but they're overcast. We essentially have a rainy season (mid late fall, all of winter, the first half or so of spring) and a dry season (May through September, though it varies year to year with climate change).

 
Miranda Converse
Posts: 257
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Thank you, that is very helpful. I never thought I might like living in the northwest but I’m starting to warm up to the idea. I need to take a trip there to see what it’s like!
 
pioneer
master steward
Posts: 5549
Location: Pacific Northwest
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James Landreth wrote:

The schools in Washington and Oregon are generally good, especially compared to some other parts of the US. If I understand correctly, in Washington there's also a fair number of options (depending on where you are) for homeschooling and home school hybrid programs. At least, there were ten years ago.



I've only ever lived here, so I cannot make good comparisons to other areas. I know that in the Seattle and Portland areas (anywhere within probably 100 miles of either city) is expensive. My home value has doubled in just 6 years!

There are some fantastic options for homeschooling. We have a lot of Parent Partnership Programs through out the state, where the public schools offer classes for homeschooling students. And, some of them also provide high school diplomas, and the costs are all covered by the public school system. One of the best is Sky Valley Education Center, which offers an amazing variety of classes from kindergarten all the way up though high school, and a high school diploma! They have a k-10 Montessori, lots of fun and educative classes, small class sizes, lots of parent involvement, no bullying, as well as a Environmental Science School (Grades 7-10) and a STEM Program (Grades 6-8 ) https://www.monroe.wednet.edu/svec We actually visited the school, and it was amazing how many homesteader-like people brought their kids there. I felt right at home. As my husband said, "Here's where all the cool people are!" (And, by "cool" he meant weird, down to earth, nerdy, fun, intelligent people )

I think most districts in Washington State offer some form of Parent Partnership Programs, but they are all really very different. Here's one in the heart of Seattle: https://cppp.seattleschools.org and another a bit north of Seattle http://www.edmondsk12.com

There's also lots of private schools, including religious schools. I went to a normal public school and had fantastic teachers...and then went to college to become a teacher. We have rigorous teaching schools, and at least the one I went to was very focused on training teachers to be sensitive to multiple cultures and learning styles. There are lots of fantastic teachers here.

The western sides of both Oregon and Washington are more liberal/environmentalist and the weather is cloudy/drizzely for half the year. I.e. for half the year, I cannot dry clothes outside. The summers are usually between 70 and 95 degrees F and slightly humid (not soggy like the south US and not dry like the desert). We get 1-4 days of snow that closes schools...and that includes days where the roads are icy but there's only an inch of snow. The most snow I every experienced here was about 10 inches...back in the mid 90s! There's lots of rivers and lakes and the Puget Sound/ocean.

The eastern sides of both Oregon and Washington are more conservative, more rural/farmer type people.  They get more snow and freezing temperatures than the west side, as well as hotter, drier weather in the summer. I'm not as familiar with the east side of the states, but I've heard lots of good things about people over there.

Washinton State as what is called the Olympic Peninsula.



It's more rural over there, with beaches and lower real estate prices. I have some family that lives over there, too, and it's a lovely area. It's where that vampire movie "Twilight" took place, LOL!
 
James Landreth
Posts: 172
Location: Western Washington
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I used to live in Sequim and Port Angeles actually :) It is a really nice area. There are some great places for farming there, and it's next to Olympic National Park. Unfortunately it's gotten expensive, but if you can find something I think it's a great choice. You can take a ferry to Victoria, Canada, from Port Angeles.

I've lived in the Tri Cities in Eastern Washington, and my grandparents lived in a city called Ellensburg, also on the east side. What Nicole said is true. The weather is extreme there and water can be scarce. It wouldn't be my first choice, but some people are ok with those challenges and limiting factors.

A lot of counties in western Washington are still surprisingly rural, and cheap compared to the rest of the state. Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark, and Grays Harbor are all counties I'm familiar with that I think can be a great choice. If you get lucky you might get property that's not a terribly far drive to Olympia or even Portland.
 
Posts: 5
Location: Whatcom County WA
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James Landreth wrote:I used to live in Sequim and Port Angeles actually :) It is a really nice area. There are some great places for farming there, and it's next to Olympic National Park. Unfortunately it's gotten expensive, but if you can find something I think it's a great choice. You can take a ferry to Victoria, Canada, from Port Angeles.

I've lived in the Tri Cities in Eastern Washington, and my grandparents lived in a city called Ellensburg, also on the east side. What Nicole said is true. The weather is extreme there and water can be scarce. It wouldn't be my first choice, but some people are ok with those challenges and limiting factors.

A lot of counties in western Washington are still surprisingly rural, and cheap compared to the rest of the state. Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark, and Grays Harbor are all counties I'm familiar with that I think can be a great choice. If you get lucky you might get property that's not a terribly far drive to Olympia or even Portland.



Hey I used to live in Sequim too! Was a nice town though a bit boring for a young couple, considering it's 75% retirees! I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula but I'm currently up in Whatcom County. I'd love to buy some land out there but as you said, expensive. My wife and I have been looking at land down in that corner of the state, much more affordable and still plenty close to our folks on the peninsula.
 
pollinator
Posts: 107
Location: Western OK, avg rain 23" hazards: drought, tornado, wildfire
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If it has to be in Florida then in a less desirable neighborhood at a higher elevation according to this article.

https://coyotegulch.blog/2018/08/29/climate-gentrification-in-florida-actonclimate/.
 
James Landreth
Posts: 172
Location: Western Washington
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That's great, Peter! Let me know if you ever get serious about buying down here! It's a great location for farming, even better than back home in some ways
 
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I would pick Michigan. I've heard that there are no severe droughts, and the land is not expensive.
 
Posts: 226
Location: SE Oklahoma
16
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It surprises me that so many people pick such winter climates with short growing seasons. Wouldn't it make more sense to be further south where you can grow food most or with the right structures, all year long?   I know they do grow all year in Minnesota and Wisconsin (although I'm sure building a heated hoop house is a pricey proposition).

Personally, I chose SE Oklahoma because land isn't outrageous, it is rural, inexpensive, it rains a lot, grass grows well here, and the weather is temperate with a long growing season. I actually found my way here trying to find a place to share inexpensive land that might work for someone.

I didn't find the perfect place, so maybe it is ok to share it here. There is no connection between me and these places. They're just in my general area and I thought they sounded reasonable enough someone here might want to look at the information on them.

SEMINOLE (Seminole County) https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/2221737668044787 Two bedroom one bath house on 15 acres 9 miles south of Seminole; currently remodeling so price will go up when more work is done. Land also has separate mobile home hook up with water septic and electric 11.6 acres of Land is fenced 3.4. Unusable . Has pond has several fruit trees pears and apples asking $65,000 possible owner finance with 20% down.

The house doesn't look like anything to write home about, but fruit trees, possible owner finance, 15 acres with all utilities in. Photos on Facebook. Here's one of them:



WEWOKA (Seminole County) 40 acres 4 bedroom double-wide looks like house composite shingle roof $100,000 https://www.landsofamerica.com/property/36484-EW-1180-Wewoka-Oklahoma-74884/5415507 Price has been dropped twice, probably because it isn't fenced. If it were, horse people would have probably bought it already (if they could find it).

 
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For your own sake, Check out Arkansas.  North central has a great growing climate.  Doesn't get too cold and there are plenty of rivers, natural springs and streams.  Plus, lots of acreage with homes for sale at very decent prices
 
pioneer
gardener
Posts: 2249
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I think your temperature, humidity and precipitation needs have to be figured out first.  If you like a good hard winter, or hate it when the temp is over 90, the answer lies somewhere above the 40th parallel or at elevation.  If you love a hot muggy summer and a gentle winter, head to the South East and South.  If you like it dry, aim for the west but away from the ocean.  You can homestead in all of these conditions but only if you like it there.

Gail's post about Oklahoma sounds wonderful.  If you like those conditions.  I hate the heat (Wisconsin is bad enough) so I would never live there.
 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 226
Location: SE Oklahoma
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Marshall Peters wrote:For your own sake, Check out Arkansas.  North central has a great growing climate.  Doesn't get too cold and there are plenty of rivers, natural springs and streams.  Plus, lots of acreage with homes for sale at very decent prices



I suspect parts of Arkansas are very similar to parts of Oklahoma. The other variable to consider is soil. I avoid places that are very rocky (bad for horses' feet and not so great for gardening, either). NE Oklahoma is more rocky. Ideally, you'd want sandy loam to directly plant in the ground.

But the good news is that raised beds, food forests, and permaculture are all useful for turning whatever you have or can afford into viable places to grow more food. Here, I'm thinking just past the drip line of existing trees will have better soil for growing in already than the red clay and sand areas here.
 
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