For an urban dweller, homesteading may seem no more than a pipe dream.
Sure it’s great to live self-sufficiently on your own land or even live off the grid if you like, but you don’t even know when or how to start or which state to pick as your homesteading haven.
Well, how about starting now, and how about Florida as a destination?
Is Florida a good state for homesteading? Florida is an excellent choice for starting a homestead. Florida is known for its mild climate and long growing seasons. Its warm weather and famous sunshine make its agricultural land ideal for growing both tropical and warm-weather crops.
Since the 1860s when homesteading officially began with the blessing of the US government, Florida has been the mecca of homesteaders from all over the country.
The Sunshine State also has a robust agriculture industry supported by 10,550 miles of rivers, 7,700 lakes, and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline.
That’s all fine, but how would you start your homesteading plans in Florida?
Read on to find answers to all the pressing questions on your mind right now and to the others that might pop up later.
Homesteading in Florida
While Florida offers many opportunities and advantages for the soon-to-be homesteader, it also has its own set of challenges. Experts recommend that you need to start slow and plan way ahead.
There’s a lot you need to know in terms of the laws and regulations not just for homesteading in Florida but also regarding livestock, zoning, agriculture, and of course gun laws.
Let’s take a closer look at homesteading in Florida.
Florida Homestead Laws
The homestead laws in Florida are very much on the side of the homesteader. The Florida constitution protects the owner’s land and home from levies and creditors.
According to Act X, Section 4, a creditor cannot force the homesteader to sell their land or primary home to satisfy the creditor’s judgment.
Moreover, if a debtor obtains a judgment against a homestead, the said judgment cannot be attached as a lien on the homestead in Florida.
Florida Livestock Laws
The livestock laws in Florida puts the onus of maintaining the livestock squarely on the shoulders of the homesteader. No surprises there.
The owner has to maintain fences and make sure that livestock don’t escape or roam free outside the boundaries of the property.
There are also laws governing the movement of livestock and poultry from and into Florida as well as laws for the possession and rehabilitation of wild animals.
Florida Zoning Laws
Much like many other states, Florida has zoning laws that classify land into different categories including industrial, agricultural, residential, recreational, commercial, etc.
These laws and classifications determine how you can use a parcel of land and whether you’re allowed to develop it or not.
Each county and city in Florida has its own zoning website where you can enter your address to know the exact classification of that specific piece of land.
Florida Cottage Food Laws
The Florida cottage food laws are as permissive as they come. If you want to make food in your kitchen and sell it to customers, you don’t have to obtain a license for that.
As long as these foods are of the low-risk type and don’t promote the spread of foodborne diseases, you can produce and sell as much as you like without having to get a permit.
These foods include bread, biscuits, candy, homemade pasta, honey, and jams among others.
Florida Homestead Exemption
To encourage potential homesteaders, Florida offers many tax exemptions.
Provided that you live permanently on your homestead, the first $50,000 of its value gets a $25,000 tax exemption including school district taxes and all other taxes.
You’ll need to be living on the property from the first day of the current tax year.
You can also claim homestead tax exemption if the property is the permanent resident of a dependent on your tax form.
Florida Gun Laws
In Florida, the gun laws are relatively relaxed as is the case in many of the Sun Belt states. You’ll need to be 21 years old to purchase a gun, and open carry is not permitted.
You need to have a license to carry a gun in public and that gun has to be concealed.
The legal system in Florida allows you to defend yourself by any means possible if you think your life is in danger.
Available Land in Florida
According to a 2016 census, the total land area in Florida is 36,628,500 acres.
Out of that, 8,417,200 acres are agricultural land, 2,527,900 acres are cropland, 3,062,700 acres are classified as pastureland, 1,359,300 acres are reserved as rangeland, and 1,467,300 acres as woodland.
It’s worth mentioning that the agricultural land has shrunk by about 400,000 acres since the previous census in 2001. This is due to urban development as well as natural disasters.
Florida Land Prices
Because of the high demand for land in Florida, the price of an acre of land has continued to rise steadily over the past few years, and more and more city dwellers have moved to the Sunshine State.
As a result, the starting price of an acre of land currently stands at $6,100.
I recommend counties such as Madison, Alachua, Columbia, Suwannee, and Levy for the homesteader looking for affordable agricultural land.
The Sunshine State has warm weather all year round, and it gets hotter in the summer. The north and center of Florida is humid subtropical with the southern parts considered tropical.
Temperatures in the winter rarely drop below 41 ℉, and in the summer they stay in the middle 90s. The last frost date varies by city, but it is usually sometime in February.
Statewide, Florida averages 53.7 inches of rainfall every year. Additionally, the state has four growing zones, namely, 8, 9, 10, and 11.
Florida Growing Season
The growing season in Florida varies in length depending on which part of the state you live. In the north, summer starts in June and lasts until September.
Central Florida has a longer growing season that starts in mid-May and continues until early October.
As for South Florida, it’s blessed with warm weather, and you can start growing outdoors in early April and continue until early November.
Number of Homesteaders in Florida
In Florida, there are 28,096 homesteaders farming a total land area of 3,326,712 acres or about 10% of the total area of the state.
Is Florida Good for Off-Grid Living?
As long as you have a clean water source and a working septic system, you can totally live off-grid in Florida.
As I mentioned, the Florida constitution is on the side of the homesteader, and it’s totally legal to live off-grid in the state.
Can You Homeschool in Florida?
You sure can. Florida doesn’t have many constraints or legal requirements when it comes to homeschooling.
The parents don’t have to have achieved any level of education to qualify as educators for their own children. Criminal records are no hindrance for homeschooling either.
How To Find Land for Homesteading in Florida
Tips for Homesteading in Florida
If you’re buying land with cash, you can expect to close the deal and start homesteading within 30 days from the purchase.
If you’re planning to finance the purchase, it might take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for the deal to go through.
Also, remember that you don’t need to buy 40 or 50 acres of land to start homesteading. You can start with as little as 5 acres, build your home, and start the life you’ve been dreaming of.
Be sure to talk with local like-minded people to glean hard-earned knowledge and get advice for crops to grow, animals to raise, etc.
List of Helpful Resources
- Florida Constitution
- State Animal Health And Federal Agencies
- Orlando Zoning Website
- Florida Cottage Food
- Land Watch and Land Search for finding land parcels for homesteading
Is It Illegal To Dig Your Own Well in Florida?
If you’re planning to dig the well yourself, that’s illegal in Florida. The well has to be dug by a licensed contractor.
The only case where you’re allowed to dig your own well is if the well is less than 2 inches in diameter.
What Are the Bad Things About Living in Florida?
Extreme temperatures and hurricanes are some of the negative aspects of living in Florida. If you’re used to living in the mountains or hilly areas, Florida would disappoint you with its flat land.
Insurance costs a lot more in Florida than in other states, and the influx of tourists to the Sunshine State can be a nuisance.
Florida is a dream destination for homesteaders. The laws of the state protect the homesteaders and offer tax exemptions as incentives for potential homesteaders to buy land and settle in the Sunshine State.
As long as you can tolerate the heat during the summer, you may have just discovered the ideal homestead location.