N.C. Museum of History’s outdoor gardens tell the story of agriculture’s past, show us glimpses of its future

by | Jul 16, 2012

The N.C. Museum of History’s outdoor gardens are in full bloom, and visitors to the Capitol City can enjoy the plants while learning more about North Carolina’s agricultural past, present and future.

The museum, in partnership with Syngenta, has filled planters outside the museum with a variety of crops: herbs that would have been typical in a Colonial garden; corn, beans and squash, referred to by Native Americans as the “three sisters” for their compatibility as plant companions; tobacco, cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes, cash crops of the state; a drought-tolerant variety of corn developed by Syngenta; and annual and perennial plants representing the state’s nursery sector.

History gardens

Guests at a recent open house for the "History of the Harvest" exhibit look at peanut and sorghum plants that are two of North Carolina's cash crops. North Carolina's agriculture and agribusiness industry contributes nearly $72 billion to the economy.

“The museum’s focus is historical, looking back at how people have interacted with the environment,” said Emily Grant, youth programs coordinator at the museum. “Our partnership with Syngenta helps bring that story to the present by looking at current trends and practices in the field of agriculture.”

As readers of this blog may remember, the Museum of History planted its first educational gardens in 2009, but the $15,000 Syngenta sponsorship has enabled the museum to add better signage and even more plants that are grown in the state.

The “History of the Harvest” exhibit is presented in the following six sections:

  • “Nature’s Gardens” and “Gardens of Life and Health,” which focus on the medicinal and culinary plants of the state. Some of the plants in these areas are rivercane, rosemary, rue and sassafras.
  • “Early Agriculture,” which features the “three sisters” — corn, beans and squash — that were traditionally used by Native Americans in North Carolina.
  • “Changing Landscapes,” which includes such cash crops as cotton, tobacco, sweet potatoes, peanuts and sorghum.
  • “From Field to Lab,” which highlights biotechnology’s role in agriculture. Visitors can compare a drought-tolerant corn variety to another variety.
  • In the “Symbols of the State” area, visitors will see a dogwood, blueberry bushes and other seasonal plants.

If you are in Raleigh, be sure to check out the gardens. They are located along Bicentennial Plaza, a walkway between the State Capitol and the Legislative Building. If you have already visited the exhibit, leave a note in the comments section below and let us know what you liked about it.