I hope it's not too late to provide more feedback. I hope to save you from east Tennessee!
I was born and raised in ETN and lived there until I was 30. I feel passionately that if you're interested in doing anything remotely progressive, east Tennessee is not the place to do it
. It defines the word "redneck". You'll find little to no support in the community for your permaculture perspectives. Also, you won't get the four seasons you're after. You'll get a middling spring, a long, humid summer, a middling fall, and a short, warmish winter. The only upside I can think of here is that the property is pretty cheap (for a reason!).
I've now lived in Asheville in western NC for over a year and it's like a different planet. The community is amazing. It's stuffed to bursting with every kind of progressive, eco, artsy, and perma oddball you could imagine. And the weather is fabulous; four even, distinct seasons that don't get too severe in any direction. There is ample land within a 30 minute drive of town. That said, there are downsides. The awesome culture ends sharply at the city limits and then you're back in redneck land (though there are several small pockets of coolness to be found around). But the biggest bite is the price; land around here is crazy expensive.
I've been doing a lot of property searching around here myself lately, and this is the best site I've found for it (great search options like "level", "private", and "adjacent to national forest"). Take a look and see how the market strikes you. http://www.beverly-hanks.com/search
If there's anything I can help you with about WNC, just let me know!