Greetings Peter! I definitely agree with you that what a person thinks is "Best" will get multiple different answers. Especially with Permaculture folk! What I wrote, answered why the areas that I picked in Tennessee were superior in may way of thinking. The Upper Cumberlands have better weather, reasonable land prices, good education centers, low taxes, great towns and communities. Leah's question/statement included rural and homestead and so I focused on those key words. She also asked, where do ya'll live and or recommend? I've visited most, if not all of the southern states that she mentioned, have even actively looked at real estate in others, but I've had the pleasure of living in two of those, Tennessee and Florida, hence my focus. Western North Carolina and North Georgia, when compared to Tennessee, just fall behind on many levels in my mind, as I've studied those areas. I second James Fryers opinion above that North Georgia is expensive and I personally think that Tennessee is a better fit. Hugh Lovel's "A Biodynamic Farm" is a classic from that wonderful North Georgia area though and he probably would have a different "Best" opinion than mine: ) They are wonderful and beautiful states for sure and people would pick those areas for different reasons (Asheville, Earthaven Ecovillage to name a few), but I stated that I did not want to disparage or take anything away from them. So I focused on what I knew and the reasons for "My Best".
Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville are not rural by any means and the suburban sprawl around Nashville is legendary. Just look up the 840 corridor as mentioned above and you'll see. It's one of the many reasons people are fighting it and I doubt that even the small communities in those areas will stay rural. Leah wanted that when passing the homestead along to her children in the future. I spoke of the areas that I've personally lived in and gave my honest answers for her questions. Florida is my home state and my perspective is on my growing up here. I love the Cumberland Plateau, for the weather (a little higher elevation) and the great communities surrounding it. Much like southern Arizona where you are from. I love Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin and their higher elevation gives them a better climate than say Tucson or Marana. Brad Lancaster "LOVES!!!" his Tucson neighborhood and Bean Tree Farm is a wonderful place in those lower areas. Perhaps folks would like the higher elevations further south with different climes? Your "Best" in southern Arizona is indeed different from other Permaculture minded people living in that area. I recently took a PDC in Costa Rica and we had people from North, Central and South America attending. I can assure you that all of our "Best" were different! People were focused on urban/rural and everything in-between. We had a guy from South America more focused on land/farming as he had a cacao operation. Definitely different than the rest of us and we all had different reasons and "Best"! In closing, I love Southern Arizona and can't wait to return next year! You are blessed to call that area home!