Many fruit growing families have connections to their land going back over a century. For numerous reasons, public and private entities have used mapping, aerial photography, and satellite imagery to document land use. Over the last decade many organizations have begun to digitize this imagery and make it available online.

Below are several links to resources that growers may find useful to see how a property has changed over time. These tools may help answer questions about how the present-day farm came to exist. What building sat on that old foundation? What year was the irrigation pond dug? What crops grew here before it was a fruit farm? In some cases, these images reveal how thousands of acres of farmland became neighborhoods and commercial developments.

Viewing these historic images may be simply a fun diversion or they may offer valuable information when planning buildings, plantings, or landscape changes. The links below are just the beginning. Many more resources are likely available online through your local or state libraries and historical associations.

Historic Aerials

This viewer makes it easy to view aerial and satellite images from, in some cases, as early as the 1930s. By using the tabs on the left of the map you can easily search for an address on a modern map and then select the imagery from the past. The viewer does use watermarking on the images unless you subscribe, but most images still are clearly visible without a subscription.

Northeast corner of Alpine and 4-Mile, Grand Rapids, MI, 1955

Vintage Aerials

For many years commercial aerial photography has provided rural populations with the opportunity to purchase aerial photographs of their farmhouse, barn, or entire property. Often these were sold door-to-door with samples. Amazingly, the Vintage Aerials company has collected millions of these in one place and pinned them to approximate map locations. The images range from the mid-1900s to the early 2000s.

Library of Congress: Guide to historic property research

The Library of Congress holds the definitive collection of material related to American history, and there is no shortage of maps and images of farmland on their website. The link above will take users to their digital collection of maps which is sortable by region, state, or city. Many old county atlases available through this site show property owners, building locations, and the location of communities that do not appear on present day maps.

Monroe County, New York, County Atlas, 1858.

Old Maps Online

This site draws on old maps and aerial imagery that other organizations have made available online. The benefit of is that it links these old maps to their location on a searchable modern-day map.