Finding a piece of land on which to create your ideal homestead is a rather subjective process. Aside from a few traits that I would consider non-negotiable – a water source and some southern exposure – I’d be hard pressed to give a list of “must haves.” After all, each family’s needs will be different, and your own personal preferences and available finances will play strongly into your decision-making.
When we purchased our Missouri land, we paid a lot of attention to community and neighbors. We wanted to live in walking proximity to friends with whom we could create community and raise our kids as neighbors. We were invited to live within a homesteading community land trust, on which three neighbors steward 10 acres of land, and together we co-own another 30 acres. This situation seemed like an ideal blend of autonomy and community.
Our piece of land has a lot of wonderful features: It is located on a hilltop with ample southern sun exposure, and has an almost equal mixture of forest and pasture. An already established one acre pond is an easy walk from our front door. The forest is an excellent privacy feature, and it also buffers us from North and Northwest winds. We have a sloped pasture that leads to a seasonal creek, so there is a wide diversity of wild edible plants, wildflowers, and grasses, and plenty of space to graze a few animals. The land was affordable and building codes are very relaxed, enabling us to build our own structures and integrate lots of alternative building ideas.
On the flip side, our house and gardens sit atop a hill that had been severely eroded, so we’ve had to work hard to improve soil for growing food and fruit trees. We have very little flat land, so tilling up a large garden is virtually impossible. Our main water sources (the pond and the creek) are lower in elevation than our house, and we have no natural springs on the property. We are about 12 miles from the town where we do most of our shopping, cultural activities, etc., so we spend more time driving than I would prefer. We live in an economically depressed area, which made land super-affordable, but makes employment challenging.
There are so many pros and cons to each and every place you might live, but it helps to think about your priorities and needs, and then try to meet those prioritized needs.
For example, someone whose goal is to create a CSA farm is probably going to place rich soil and flat, tillable land high on their priority list. We have friends who want to grow medicinal herbs and native plants; among their needs is a piece of land that has enough forest to create shady habitat for such plants. To assist you with this process, I’ve created a list of questions that will help you define your ideal homestead land.
Finding your homestead land:
Do you wish to live rurally or in an urban/suburban setting?
What is your budget?
Is there a particular town or county that you need to live in (for schools, jobs, etc.)?
Do you have sufficient transportation to get to a more rural homestead?
How important is it to you to have nearby neighbors? Or total privacy?
What kinds of zoning restrictions or building codes might influence what you can or cannot do on your homestead?
Do you have friends, family or community nearby? Interdependence is such an important part of homesteading, even when you are striving for self-sufficiency.
Do other homesteaders live in the area? Are they possible mentors?
How “off-grid” do you wish to be? Are you looking to disconnect completely from utilities? Or are you wanting to still have access to certain amenities such as DSL internet, a landline phone, or grid-tied electricity?
What is your preferred water source? Is water catchment legal? How is the local groundwater?
What is the soil like? Is it suitable for growing food?
How much land are you looking for?
Once you’ve answered these questions, it will be so much easier to move forward with a search for your ideal homestead with a clear vision and a list of prioritized needs.