Five places where land is free

scenic downtown Camden, Maine where they're giving away free landIn the spirit of settling the wild, wild West, some communities are giving away free land lots. What’s the catch? You have to agree to build a house (or park a mobile home) and live in it. For the most part, the places doing this are rural communities without much in the way of work opportunities. But there are definitely some upsides and we can think of worse places to wait out the recession than near a mountain stream in Alaska. Besides, doesn’t the whole world work virtually now, or is that just my hemisphere?
The concept is certainly not new. Homesteading incentives dating from 1862 helped settle the far reaches of the country. And as population density increased, communities thrived. Some communities today simply need more people. Land, they’ve got plenty of, so why not give it away? People pay taxes and that allows schools to stay open, roads to be built, public services to be paid for.
What are you likely to get? A few years ago, the Alaskan town of Anderson — smack in the state’s interior, loaded with spruce trees and views of the Northern lights and Mount McKinley — put 26 plots of land up for grabs. The town of 300 has no gas station, no grocery store and no traffic lights. It also pays no property taxes, no state income taxes, has no crime and no traffic. Summers are gorgeous with temperatures reaching 90. Winters, well, winters are a different story; the weather can get to minus 60.
The federal government no longer gives away free land (it sells it at fair market value), so if you get something in the mail about the U.S. government’s land giveaways, it’s a scam. But small communities in many states including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin still do. In most cases, they are local programs intended to reverse the depopulation of small towns and each one has its own set of rules about who qualifies and what you must do once you get the land.
In Nebraska, what you build has to have a taxable value of at least $100,000. In Alaska, you have to be a U.S. citizen and live in Alaska for a year before you can claim land — which seems to run contrary to the stated goal of trying to draw new residents, but we’d pay good money to hear former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin explain it.
Here’s a sampling of what we found for free.

1) Several small cities in rural Kansas will give you a land lot if you agree to fashion housing of at least 1,000 square feet on it. Mobile homes are welcome, and we’ll be sure to wave as yours flies by in the next tornado. If one lot isn’t large enough and you’d like to garden, the city of Marquette, Kansas would be pleased as punch to just give you a second lot adjacent to the first, also for free, says its website. These are developed lots, by the way — they already have water, sewer and electricity.
2) Atwood Kansas, population 2,600, is also offering free land to anyone willing to move their family to their community and build a new home on one of these lots. If 2,600 people sounds too rural for you, they are quick to point out that another 45,000 people (and probably even more cattle) can be found within an hour’s drive. Rush hour traffic isn’t an issue.
3) Elwood, Nebraska, with just 761 residents, bills itself as a “great place to find a home.” They aren’t giving away much in terms of land, but it’s worth a look if you want to live in the county seat.
4) Marne, Iowa is giving away what appears to be attractive-looking lots with well-established trees — either that or someone went a little crazy with PhotoShop. The town, settled in 1875, has 149 residents — down from the original 617. The city of Marne’s website features the winners of the apple pie baking contest, as well as a call for a community prayer for a resident deployed to Iraq and the news that someone’s nephew from Australia was visiting. You New Yorkers are just lining up, aren’t you?
5) Lest you think businesses are being left out of the free-land loop, some communities aren’t waiting for any federal stimulus money to create jobs. They’re doing it on their own. Muskegon, Michigan is giving away free land for companies that create new industrial jobs. You get five acres for 25 jobs; create 100 jobs and get 30 acres. The sites they are giving away have full utilities and easy access to highways, a deep-water port, the railroads and the Muskegon County Airport. If that pot isn’t sweet enough for you, the city also will throw in free season tickets to the Lumberjacks hockey team or a free boat slip at Harbour Towne Marina in slips the city now owns after prior slip owners didn’t pay their property taxes.

And in coastal Camden, Maine, the city is offering a free 3.5 acre lot to any business that will help generate tourism. They throw in no corporate income tax or sales tax for the first few years and will even pay your insurance premiums. Just bring some jobs with you. ( source: )

How to get free land and (nearly) free houses in the United States

The economy is tough right now. Unemployment is persistently high. Jobs are hard to find.
What if you want to start over, sort of like the homesteaders of the 1800s? You stake your claim to free land and create your life from scratch.
It can be done today in two different ways. This article points out that there are towns giving away free land:
7 Towns Where Land is Free
Do you get 40 acres? No. But free is free, and the best on the list may be this one:
Homestead Act 2010
The City of Beatrice currently has three residential lots available. The lots are approximately 83 feet wide and 140 feet deep. The lots are located on the west side of Beatrice. They are within the City limits. The lots all have access to a street, water, sewer, and electricity. There are no buildings on the lots. If you fulfill all of the terms and conditions of the contract you will receive the land at no cost from the City.

Beatrice is a reasonably sized small town and is fairly close to major cities:
If you read through the terms and conditions, you will not be able to build a sod house. But, again, free is free.
If you don’t want to build a house on a lot, what about buying a house that is nearly free? I tried this search at Detroit houses between $0 and $10,000:
Search Results – Detroit, MI Real Estate and Homes for Sale – $0 to $10,000
I am seeing 1,600 homes that fall into that category. Try it in other cities. You may be surprised.
What did homesteading look like 140 years ago? This video includes summarized instructions for building a sod house.
What does homesteading look like today? This could easily be done on any suburban lot:
This page describes the original homesteading act:

In 1862, Congress passed the revolutionary Homestead Act that sent thousands of Americans west in pursuit of free land. Any man 21 years of age or over was eligible to stake out 160 acres of land for less than $20. After filing their intentions, homesteaders were required to live on the land, build a residence, and farm at least 10% of it within five years before a legal patent for the land was issued. After Alaska was purchased by the U.S., homesteaders began claiming land in Alaska. Homesteaders ranged from dairy and agricultural farmers to miners and wilderness pioneers living a subsistence lifestyle. Though homesteading in most of the U.S. began to rapidly diminish in the early 20th century, it remained a viable method of settling Alaska. The Homestead Act was finally repealed in 1976, though Alaska was granted an extension until 1986. In its 114 active years, 10% of U.S. land was settled under the act, including significant portions of Alaska.

See also: – Need a new hobby? Need extra income? Want to be the ultimate locavore? Consider urban farmingHow to keep chickens in your backyard and have fresh eggs every day (source: )

A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency

Planning a garden in advance can help you enjoy local, homegrown food year-round! Estimate how much to grow or buy and learn how to achieve food security with these guidelines.

Well Planned Garden

Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer

Providing high-quality food for your family year-round takes foresight and planning, plus healthy doses of commitment and follow-through. Whether you grow as much of your food as you can or you source it from local producers, the guidelines here will help you decide how much to produce or purchase. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” later in this article will also help you estimate how much space you’ll need — both in your garden to grow the crops, and in your home and pantry or root cellar to store preserved foods. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you make the best use of your garden space (or farmers markets) to move toward homestead food self-sufficiency.

1. Establish Your Goals

Make a list of the foods you and your family eat now — and note the quantities as well. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” further along in this article assume a half-cup serving size for fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a 2-ounce serving for dry grains. If your servings differ from the charts, be sure to adjust your calculations accordingly.

Decide what you’d like to grow, noting the foods your family prefers and recognizing that not every crop will grow in every climate. Research different crop varieties: Some crops — such as melons — require long, hot days to mature, but certain varieties need fewer days to reach maturity, which allows them to be grown in areas with a shorter growing season.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build gradually toward food self-sufficiency. A good starting goal might be to produce all of a certain crop that you use. An early milestone for me was growing all of the green beans we needed for a year and all of the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce I canned. Maybe you’ll aim to eat at least one thing from your garden each day. Keep your goals in mind as you’re planning a garden.

2. Choose a Gardening Method

I recommend following the guidelines of “Grow Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming” as developed by John Jeavons at Ecology Action in Willits, Calif., and explained in his book How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Jeavons’ form of biointensive gardening, which can sometimes produce higher yields than less intensive approaches, focuses on eight principles:

Deep soil preparation
Intensive planting
Companion planting
Growing crops for carbon and grains
Growing crops for sufficient calories from a small area
Using open-pollinated seeds
Integrating all processes into a whole, interrelated system.

(source: )