I stumbled across the “Iowa Geographic Map Server” website tonight.
It is here: Iowa Geographic Map Server
On this site, you can access aerial photographic maps of Iowa dating from the 1930’s till the present. Pick a random area. Trace the vegetative cover and land use through the decades. From this exercise, I’ve come to several conclusions.
1. The concept of a “family farm” is largely long gone. The disappearance of individual family farms is evident as farming has taken on a strong corporate character hellbent on making a profit at any cost.
2. Because of the growth of corporate farms and disappearance of family farms, the nature of the land has changed. The aerial maps from the 1930’s show farmsteads with substantial windbreaks, pastures, crooked streams, and idle areas. If the resolution was better, I suspect we’d see hard working families with a strong connection to the land, conscious of the connection between their prosperity and the health of the land they worked.
3. The aerial maps of the present show a loss of most of the windbreak bounded family farms. The more “willy nilly” nature of the land has been replaced by featureless corporate owned “fence row to fence row” monoculture tracts distinguished only by the roads that give access, hog confinements, and rows of wind turbines. My present day travels tell me that my observation here is spot on.
We’ve lost a lot of the natural world in Iowa in the last 80-some years. Evident even on high altitude aerial photographs.