Where Are The Best Homestead Areas In The American Mid-West

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The American Mid-West has aspects of both the American East and West plus unique areas and weather patterns more common here than in the rest of the U.S.

The American Mid-West, for the purposes of this article, includes the States between Texas in the south to North Dakota with the exception of Oklahoma, plus the States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Where are the best homestead areas in the American Mid-West? The best homestead areas in the American Mid-West are Minnesota's Lakes Country; Texas Pine Country; Wisconsin's Northern Lake and Forest Country; South Dakota's Black Hills.

Portions of the American Mid-West are transition zones between the American East which has ample rainfall and minimal water problems and the American West where Water can be a problem.

In the 1930's portions of Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Texas were so dry they became know as the Dust Bowl. Other areas of the American Mid-West are almost as humid as the American East.

As in the American East and American West it is crucial to pay attention to the critical aspects when choosing land for a Homestead. If the land is deficient in one of these critical aspects it makes establishing a homestead much more difficult and in some cases impossible.

These basic homestead principles of good water and soil, trees and adequate sunlight vary little from State to State or area to area. Understanding those principles and implementing them in a search for Country or Homestead Property is key to a successful search and happiness with the property purchased.

As in the American East the humidity found in portions of the Mid-West makes the temperature feel hotter than it really is in the summer. What some may not realize is that those areas of the American Mid-West that are humid can also feel colder than it really is in the winter.

Problems More Common To The American Mid-West

Although tornadoes can and do occur in other parts of America, they are mainly found in the American Mid-West. In fact they are so prevalent in the Mid-West that parts of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota make up the heart of Tornado Alley.

Less intensive areas for tornadoes in the American Mid-West include portions of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Tornadoes form in unusually violent thunderstorms when there is sufficient (1) instability and (2) wind shear present in the lower atmosphere. Instability refers to unusually warm and humid conditions in the lower atmosphere and possibly cooler than usual conditions in the upper atmosphere.

The American Mid-West, situated as it is between the Appalachian Mountains in the East and the Rocky Mountains in the West seems to be the perfect location to spawn tornadoes. 

When warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from Canada meet under the right conditions, they create instability in the atmosphere and tornadoes can form.

The American Great Plains is a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, that lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. The largest area of the Great Plains is in the American Mid-West which includes large portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas.

A portion of the Great Plains is called the Central Great Plains. It is a semi-arid prairie ecoregion of the central United States, part of the North American Great Plains. The region runs from west-central Texas through west-central Oklahoma, central Kansas and south-central Nebraska.

Additionally the States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa comprise a large potion of what is called the Plains States. The Plains are compromised largely of flat or relatively flat landscape with large areas of grasslands. These States along with Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri make up what is called the Heartland of America.

Portions of the Heartland have deep fertile soil and makes excellent farmland.

You should be aware of the fact much of the American Mid-West has been farmed in the past. If you locate a Homestead Site that is on land that has been farmed in the past there is a good chance that chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides have been used on that land.

If one of your goals is to raise organic produce for your family or to sell locally the previous use of chemical agents on the land prevents the growing of organic produce!

If the land you are considering purchasing has ever been part of a commercial farming operation it is almost guaranteed that chemical agents were used on it in the past. It takes a minimum of 10 years for these chemical agents to break down and not affect the produce grown.

Some of the chemical agents that were in widespread use in the Mid-West in the past take a lot longer to break down and disappear from the soil.

If you question a Real Estate agent about the previous use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides the Real Estate agent may not know if they have been used.

If you ask the property owner and they think you may not want to buy land that these chemical agents have been used, there is a chance that you may not get the correct answer to your question.

One of the best ways to know if chemical agents were used on the land is to keep your eyes open when looking at the property. When looking inside garages, barns and other outbuildings look for containers of these chemical agents or for bags of chemical fertilizers.

If you see any of these containers or bags look at them to see if they are OMRI approved. OMRI is the Organic Materials Review Institute. If a fertilizer or amendment is OMRI approved it is safe to use on and in growing produce that can be certified as Organic Produce.

Preferred Homestead Areas In The American Mid-West

Because much of the American Mid-West is prairie and grasslands and semi-arid it is not always easy to find land with the critical aspects necessary for a Homestead. The critical aspect most difficult to find in the American Mid-West is trees.

All recommended Homestead areas will be areas with trees. It is possible to homestead on land without trees. American Mid-Western Pioneers built Sod Houses on the prairie and used to burn dried buffalo chips and cow dung for cooking and to keep warm in the winter.

It should be noted that burning dried cow dung emits much larger quantities of dioxins and chlorophenols than burning wood does. These chemicals have been shown to be damaging to human health. Dioxins have been associated with infertility, cancer and even diabetes. Chlorophenol exposure can increase the chance of developing cancer and having liver diseases.

Minnesota

The NE section of Minnesota is known as Lakes Country. There are thousands of lakes and thousands of acres of forests here. This is the best homestead area but it could require clearing land for crops and pasture.

The areas between US Hwys 2 and 71 on the south and west, Canada to the north and Lake Superior to the east is the preferred Homesteading area. This area tends to have a high water table which prohibits basements under houses. But this area is much less prone to flooding than the rest of the State.

Southern Minnesota averages some 19 tornadoes a year and much of the land has been farmed using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides making it much less suitable for homesteading.

Minnesota has hot humid summers and cold winters. The hot humid summers leads to a climate with an above average amount of bugs to pester people and stock animals. The locals seem to know how to tolerate the bug problem and it is advised to learn what they do to live with the bugs.

Taxes tend to be high in Minnesota which is ranked the 13th highest State for taxes in America.

Texas

As one would expect given the size of Texas, there is more than one area that can be suitable for Homesteading.

East Texas has a good area around the Angelina National Forest. This is the Pine Country from Port Arthur on the Gulf Coast up to Tyler and I-20 and east to the Louisiana line. This is a large area with mild weather, lots of water, rural farm land and good solid down to earth people.

It is best to stay 25-30 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico due to the Hurricane threat and 30 minutes away from I-20 and large cities. There are many small towns in this area that blend well with Homesteading.

A second good area in East Texas is the area above I-20 all the way to the Oklahoma Line. This area is very similar to the area south of I-20. Just stay about 30 minutes away from I-20 and I-30 and East of US Hwy 75.

The Texas Hill Country is the area NW of I-35 between Austin and San Antonio. This is the only good Homestead area in Southwest Texas. Interstate 10 forms a rough boundary to the south and west.The northern border of the Texas Hill Country is about the town of Llano which is pretty much due north of Fredricksburg.

Texas Hill Country has a mixture of Pine, Live Oaks and Juniper trees and good well water. It also has rock outcroppings that make it expensive to have a basement and some areas have rock-like Caliche hardpan soil.

The Texas Panhandle has a good agricultural area between Lubbock and Amarillo. A good area is the Plainview area. This is a vast area that has a lot of hills and rough country but less trees than the Pine Country and Hill Country.

The Texas Panhandle can get cold in winter. I have seen I-40 as a sheet of ice all across the Panhandle in late December.

Don't forget that it is best to stay about 30 minutes away from interstate highways,, major US highways and large cities and towns.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has two areas that can make good Homestead areas. These areas are the northern lake and forest country and the rural farmland areas north and west of Madison.

The northern lake and forest country's best areas lie north of a line running from Eau Claire, Wasau and Green Bay. You will want to stay at least 30 minutes from these three cities. The numerous small towns in this area have friendly people and it is easy to get water when drilling a well.

Basements are possible if you purchase land with high ground on it.

The rural farmland areas are best when about 50 miles from Madison. In this area it is common to be able to have a basement under a house. There is an area north of Madison and along Hwy 113 that is very marshy. It is best to avoid this area.

Rainfall in the north is about 32 inches per year and the soil is rich in most parts of Wisconsin. The weather is hot humid summers and cold winters. The southern portion of Wisconsin averages 21 tornadoes a year.

Wisconsin is the ninth highest State for tax burden on it's citizens.

south dakota black hillsSouth Dakota

The best hDo Any Mid-Western States Offer FReeLand?omesteading area of South Dakota is the Black Hills Area located south and west of Rapid City. This area is in the southwestern corner of the State. Mt. Rushmore is a favorite tourist area near Keystone and Custer is another tourist area. It is best to be 30 minutes away from I-90 and US Hwys 16 & 385.

Immediately east of the Black Hills is Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which has had drug problems involving Methamphetamine and Cocaine in the recent past. It is best to stay away from that general area.

Ellsworth Air Force Base is located just NE of Rapid City and north of I-90. It is the home of B-1 Bombers so it is a prime Military Target in case of a future war.

In many portions of the Black Hills the rainfall is only 15 inches a year so it is critical to be sure there is sufficient water on the land and that you will have rights to that water before purchasing the property.

North Dakota

There are no prime areas for Homesteading in North Dakota. The summers are hot and in the east there is also summer humidity. The winters are very cold averaging over 40 inches of snow fall each winter. Rainfall can be sparse at best and droughts are common. The State averages 20 tornadoes a year.

The soil is good for crops if sufficient water is available. It rains more in the eastern portion of the State. There are large areas where trees are sparse making homesteading much more difficult.

If you must homestead in North Dakota stay at least 50 miles from Minot which would be a prime Military Target in war due to missile fields there. Hopefully you can find an area with trees and enough water to raise crops. Know that eastern North Dakota, where the best farmland is, has elevated concentrations of agricultural chemicals in the water.

Nebraska

Nebraska is famous for corn and soy beans now grown mostly on large corporate farms. There are relatively few family farms left. 

Nebraska has hot humid summers and cold winters with the eastern half being the most humid and the western panhandle being semi-arid. Blizzards are common in winter and droughts are not uncommon in summer. The State averages 48 tornadoes each year.

The growing season averages 120-180 days a year with 30 inches rainfall in the east and 17 inches in the west near Wyoming. There is a massive aquifer, the Ogallala, that is under almost the entire State. The soil is rich but laced with chemicals and weed killers in the areas around the large commercial farms.

Potential Homestead Areas include rural farmland areas at least 100 miles away from the NW Nebraska Missile Fields. There are areas more than 30 minutes away from a major highway or Interstate. The hard part is finding one with sufficient trees for a wood supply in winter.

The area around Valentine is probably the best area for homesteading. This is in the vicinity of the Fort Niobrara Wild Life Refuge and the Samuel McKelvie National Forest. Here pure air and water are plentiful and you can find land with some trees.

Kansas

Kansas is the geographic center of the United States. The eastern two-thirds has a humid climate with hot humid summers and very cold winters. The western third is semi-arid and the winters tend to be less cold because of the warmer Chinook winds coming from the south. Kansas averages 48 tornadoes a year.

The growing season is between 150-220 days a year with 35 inches of rainfall in the east and 16-20 inches in the west. Portions of Kansas are over the Ogallala Aquifer but irrigation of crops is common in the western portion of the State.

The best Homestead areas are in the rural hill country west of St. Joseph, Mo and in the SE corner of Kansas near Independence, Thayer and Parsons. These areas have a low population density and no major roads to stay away from.

Illinois

Northern Illinois has a humid climate with cold windy winters. The southern portion of the State has a humid sub-tropical climate with somewhat milder winters. Illinois averages 27 tornadoes a year.

The growing season averages 150 days in the north to 210 days in the south. Rainfall is 48 inches in the south and 35 inches in the north and both areas have rich soil.

As in many States in the American Mid-West Illinois is not known for having many trees in most of the State. This fact makes Homesteading there more difficult.

The best Homesteading area is in the southern tip of Illinois south of Carbondale. There are areas of forest between Cape Girardeau, Mo and the Shawnee Forest which makes Homesteading much easier.

Iowa

Iowa has hot summers, cold winters and wet springs. There are an average of 35 tornadoes a year. The growing season is 180-240 days a year. Rainfall averages 33 inches a year and irrigation is seldom needed.  The soil is rich but has been depleted in some areas by large agribusiness farms. Only 7% of Iowa is forested. Portions of Iowa have rolling hills.

Iowa has the distinction of being one of the better States for wind and solar production. Northwest Iowa has some of the largest wind turbine farms in the U.S.

The best area for Homesteading in Iowa is in Northeast Iowa. There are hills and valleys checkered with forested areas and terraced fields. There is also a portion of Northwest Iowa where there are family farms in hill country with some trees.

Avoid the SW Iowa area near Council Bluffs. This area is downwind of Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska which would be a major target in case of a war. Another area to avoid is the low lying areas near the Mississippi River that are in flood plains plus the weather here in summer is extremely muggy.

Related Questions

Do Any Mid-Western States Offer Free Land?

In the recent past Nebraska and Iowa have offered a free city lot to anyone who will build a home and live there. These lots by and large were less than one acre lots.

Which State Has The Lowest Property Tax?

It depends on who you read. The lowest property taxes will be on land that is not suitable for homesteading. Arkansas tends to have low property taxes on land suitable for homesteading.

What States Still Allow Homesteading?

Homesteading today means something entirely different than it did in American History. Today homesteading is living as close to a sustainable life-style as possible. In that respect, as long as you find an area with the 5 Key Factors for a homestead you can homestead in most any State.

About The Author

John Brownlee

A retired Lawyer and Health Care Provider, he teaches people how to locate, evaluate, and purchase Country and Homestead Property. He and his wife, Linda, have taught hundreds of people how to suture wounds in an emergency. He teaches both Preparedness and Health Care Classes and has been a Presenter at Sustainable Preparedness Expos. He holds a General Ham Radio Operator's License.