Taking up homesteading is a challenging yet fulfilling decision among all the potential projects, hobbies, and lifestyles available.
The first choice, of course, is where you will place that homestead. One of our favorite options is Minnesota.
Minnesota is an excellent state for homesteading, and with the right information, you can begin your homestead with confidence and a step-by-step plan to materialize your dreams of a lakeside (Minnesota has a thousand of them, after all) homestead.
As always, in this series on the Must-know Key Information for homesteading in a certain state, you must consider the varying laws that will impact you.
Second to that will be access to the land itself and finally the climate itself, as all three of these factors will determine what you can actually do.
This post is specific to Minnesota, and here we will give you a basic rundown (with links!) of the basic dozen or so bits of information you will need before you begin.
Homesteading in Minnesota
In Minnesota, any property that you own outright can be classified as a homestead, which will grant you certain legal protections (which we will go over below).
However, just because you are classified as a homestead legally doesn’t mean you are actually homesteading.
These laws were simply meant to protect property owners from losing their property in the event of bankruptcy.
If you want to actually do homesteading in Minnesota, all you really need is a grasp on the climate, the growing season, what types of land are available, and how to begin the building process.
Let’s go through all of these things, the law and the practicals, piece by piece.
Minnesota Homestead Laws
To have your home considered a legal homestead in Minnesota, you simply need to be the property’s owner and have the property filed accordingly on your taxes.
The benefits to doing so all boil down to a tax benefit or a tax refund on your property taxes.
Check out the official information here.
Minnesota Livestock Laws
In Minnesota, there are three classifications of animals: domestic, livestock, and wild.
Domestic animals are pets, livestock are those animals that make beneficial products for human consumption (sheep, chickens, cows, etc.), and wild animals are non-domesticated (specifically, gray wolves).
The complete animal laws are here, and they cover how to properly restrain your animals, enclose your animals, and deal with dangerous animals as well as how the state classifies animal abuse.
Like many states, the owner is responsible for the care and enclosure of the animal, and there is no public land on which the animals can roam freely.
Minnesota Zoning Laws
Minnesota is no different than most states in that zoning is controlled by the city and county in which you plan to build.
This site is specific to St. Paul, but it also provides information and links to statewide resources.
In short, every building and every use of land must be cleared with the local governing authority. Common zoning types are commercial, residential, or farmland.
Your homestead will likely be covered under residential zoning.
If you are doing enough gardening and ranching to make serious money, you may qualify for farmland or even commercial land, but at that point, you have gone beyond simple homesteading.
Minnesota Cottage Food Laws
Cottage Food Laws regulate the production and sale of home-based food businesses.
The idea is that a small-time producer will not need the type of licensing and infrastructure that a typical commercial food vendor will need and so should operate according to different rules and regulations.
In Minnesota, Cottage Food producers do not need any special food handling license; however, they do need to register as a Cottage Food Producer.
This link will take you to the state guidance on such a business should you be producing enough to sell eggs, preservatives, and canned goods.
Minnesota Homestead Exemption
Should you ever have to file bankruptcy, the Minnesota Homestead Exemption will protect a homestead up to a value of $450,000 of home equity or up to $1,125,000 of an agricultural property.
The law kicks in automatically in the event of bankruptcy. There are no special forms that need to be filed.
Just make sure you own the land first… That way the tax man won’t take the family farm.
Minnesota Gun Laws
As can be expected, the NRA has a good overview of gun laws for Minnesota.
For homesteaders, this information is absolutely necessary because we will need guns as the primary tools for harvesting meat through hunting and protecting our livestock from wild predators.
In short, rifles and shotguns do not require any kind of permit or license while pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles do require permits and 7-day waiting periods.
Available Land in Minnesota
The types of land available in Minnesota for homesteading come in four different provinces as defined by the Ecological Classification System | Minnesota DNR (state.mn.us)
1. Broadleaf Forest – a mostly deciduous forest with lots of hardwoods.
2. Mixed forest – a mix of evergreens and deciduous forest that features both hard and soft woods.
3. Prairie Parkland – a grassland that will not give you much timber to work with but will have plenty of solar fields.
4. Tallgrass Aspen – a tall grassland that will support larger grazing animals.
Minnesota Land Prices
The average price per acre of land in Minnesota is a little over $5,000.
While that seems prohibitively expensive when compared to many other states, that is the average, which includes both developed and undeveloped land.
Many factors will be included in your final purchasing price, including but not limited to wells already dug, access to the grid, and topological features such as hardwoods or pre-existing farm-quality soil.
Minnesota Climate and Growing season
Again, Minnesota is an incredibly homestead-friendly state.
With tools like this, potential homesteaders can get all the records they need in order to anticipate what the Minnesota climate will allow them to produce and what type of sustainable systems they will want to put in place.
Minnesota is a large state that covers three basic growing zones.
Under the Plant Hardiness in the tools linked above, you will see that the northernmost section of MN is good for plants in the 2a range, and the southernmost end is 4b.
This covers a 20-degree difference in average temperature capability. So, be sure to familiarize yourself with what the land is capable of doing and adjust your expectations accordingly.
In general, the Minnesota final frost date tends to be in mid-to-late April and the first frost is in mid-to-late September.
Average temperatures range from an 83/63℉ high/low in July to a 24/6℉ high/low in January.
Number of Homesteaders in Minnesota
There are over 85,000 registered homesteads in Minnesota. While this definition of homestead is a legal one for tax purposes, it could literally mean anything.
There is a special classification of agricultural homesteads, but you need over 40 acres of land and be a full-time farmer to qualify.
That being said, anyone who takes an interest in the piece of land they’re on and starts thinking of how they can encourage sustainable food systems outside of the centralized government enclosure systems can be said to be a potential homesteader.
In truth, agriculture is not a foreign concept in Minnesota, even small-time personal agriculture.
Once you get outside the cities, you won’t be able to throw a rock without it landing on a piece of property that is being used for something.
Is Minnesota Good for Off-Grid Living?
Minnesota is amazing for off-grid living for several reasons.
First, there is abundant water. If you know how to source your water from under the ground, you can go off-grid anywhere in MN.
Springs, wells, and gravity-fed systems will allow you to start as small as you need and then build up to more energy-using systems once you build enough infrastructure.
Second, there is abundant water. This is worth saying twice. While sunlight can get down to 8 hours a day sometimes, with enough water you can use a micro-hydroelectric system to supplement your sustainable electricity system.
Third, the culture is off-grid friendly. Minnesota is still a rural state, and as such, it is very knowledgeable and accepting of land-based living solutions.
There are plenty of stores to get the supplies you need as well as local community solutions such as County Extension offices and a good, functioning post office.
Can You Homeschool in Minnesota?
Homeschooling in Minnesota is one of the more difficult aspects of homesteading.
Should you choose to homeschool, you will need to test your children annually using a state-testing tool, provide a notice of intent to homeschool, and meet certain educator requirements.
These requirements are certainly not impossible, but they do take time and intent.
Luckily, there are loads of options for alternative schooling that, while legally considered homeschooling, do take care of these requirements for you.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has all of the information you need, and a quick Google search will reveal loads of different options to ease that load on you as parent/educators.
My personal favorite is the Minnesota Virtual Academy offered by Stride-K12.
With a decent computer and a somewhat stable internet connection, you can oversee your child’s education at home while still legally being in a public school!
How To Find Land for Homesteading in Minnesota
When looking for land to purchase, you will need to decide if you are starting from scratch and building your own home (if so, off-grid may be your best option, just saying) or if you want to buy an older property and maintain it.
If you are the former, whitetailproperties.com is a great source for finding undeveloped land. They allow you to search by water and grid availability.
If you are the latter, landsearch.com will be useful for finding properties that already have a fair amount of infrastructure in place.
Arguably the most helpful resource for homesteading in MN is the county extension office. Their job is to help rural people gain access to the communities and resources they need in order to set up a good life.
How Many Acres Can You Homestead in Minnesota?
In MN, you can homestead as many acres as you can own!
Even if you don’t work the land but you just want the homestead exemption, outright ownership is required for homestead registration.
If you are still paying the land off from the bank, you can work the land and still consider yourself more of a homesteader than some suburbanite looking for a tax break.
In homesteading, it is important to incorporate sustainable, self-feeding systems. You can do that on a ¼ acre if you’re efficient. If you have 400 acres, you can do that too.
Even if you let your land go half-wild, that half-wild part will still sustain your domesticated portion by encouraging wild helpers, like pollinators and vermin eaters, to live near you in a good and working relationship.
Is There Free Land in Minnesota?
Sometimes, free land happens. It’s almost always a one-off, but it is always worth checking out.
If you are looking for free land, you won’t necessarily be able to choose where it is. Oftentimes, it will come with restrictions by the local governing authority.
In most cases, the free land is some kind of incentive program to get people to move to smaller cities with declining populations.
Minnesota is a cold, cold state, yet it is probably because of that cold and challenging climate that the homesteading and off-grid culture is so supportive and vibrant.
There are worse places to pick than Minnesota. If you are almost ready to make that jump but have the slightest hesitation, I hope you decide to just go for it. Minnesota will catch you.