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< Connecting with the Land

Red ball icon Connecting with the Land

by Jean Cutler Prior
photo by Ray Anderson


Limestone bluff Over the course of many thousands of years, Iowa’s land has evolved into watersheds, soil types, natural habitats, geologic deposits, and groundwater aquifers.  We connect with these earth systems while hiking along rock outcrops, scanning the horizon from a tractor seat, admiring a roadside prairie, fishing from a stream bank, or drinking from a water fountain.  Tuning into the deeper aspects of these systems, recognizing and understanding them, is essential to sustaining our future here.  Since Iowa established its borders in the 1840s, this land has been divided into counties, sectioned with roads, fenced into farm fields, and platted into lot lines.  These artificial boundaries tend to distance us from the earth systems that continue their natural rhythms around and beneath us.
Wildcat Den State Park.

Paul W. Johnson, Director of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, refers to Iowa’s ground as "working land," an apt phrase that suggests our state’s terrain is a "sleeves rolled up" sort of a place, focused on the job of nurturing green growth from a landscape of extraordinarily productive soils.   And Iowa’s people are widely dispersed across the land, interacting of necessity with nearly all of the state’s terrain on a daily basis.

While Iowa’s "working land" sustains us economically, we also need to experience and think about the land in different ways.  The value of Iowa’s land also includes the natural features that show us the rich diversity of our landscape prior to cultivation.  A "value-added crop" harvested from Iowa’s land can be the growth of a sense of familiarity, respect, and stewardship for its natural systems and their time-honored patterns and resources.

Adapted from Iowa Geology 1999, Iowa Department of Natural Resources