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Farmland helps Sow the Seeds of NC’s Agricultural History

In order to tell the story of North Carolina agriculture effectively you really need to go outside. Emily Grant, the Youth Programs Coordinator at the North Carolina Museum of History realized this back in 2007 and set about bringing the outdoor planters to life.


If you’ve been to Bicentennial Plaza – the mall that runs between the Museum of History and the Museum of Natural Science – you may have noticed there are plants growing there – what you might not realize is those gardens are part of the North Carolina Museum of History.

photo courtesy of the NCMOH

photo courtesy of the NCMOH

The outdoor installation provides a living history of North Carolina agriculture taking you through time from what settlers would have found upon arrival in the colony to Syngenta’s drought resistant corn. This summer the exhibit and the Museum’s events surrounding it are called “History of the Harvest” – spend some time checking out what’s planted there – the layout is thoughtful and truly tells our agricultural story.


The “Three Sisters” section is an education in itself – Native Americans knew it was beneficial to companion plant corn, beans and squash – the corn gives the beans a structure to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the soil, the squash grows along the ground, blocking the sunlight and helping prevent the establishment of weeds.

photo courtesy NCMOH

photo courtesy NCMOH

The “Changing Landscape” segment recognizes our history of tobacco and cotton, sweet potatoes, peanuts and sorghum – leading to the “Field to Lab” planting of the Syngenta drought resistant, hybrid corn.


There are beautiful beds containing our state symbols of dogwood and blueberry, interspersed with other seasonal plants on either side of the entry to the museum. The day I went to take photos – jostling in and out of one of the beds were encouraged school children making their way to pick strawberries – and the only fussing I heard lobbed their way was “check for holes, bugs love strawberries as much as you do.” A hands on learning experience for sure!


All of this outdoor learning and doing will be underscored on May 29th at 7pm when the Museum hosts a free screening of Farmland, followed by a North Carolina farmer panel question and answer discussion. If you haven’t seen Farmland – get yourself here. Award winning director James Moll traveled across the US to tell the story of six farmers and ranchers in their twenties – they each share their experiences, struggles, and joys. Being a farmer’s daughter I was warned to grab a tissue before watching it the first time – I’m glad I did.


Bringing it home to you on the panel are Bo Stone of Robeson County’s P & S Farms. Bo owns P & S Farms with his wife Missy, and his parents – they grow row crops – wheat, soybeans and corn – they also have hogs and cattle, as well as strawberries and sweet corn that they sell at their own roadside market.

Shawn and Tracey Harding of Southside Farms in Beaufort County will also join the panel; married for twenty-five years they’ve been farming their fresh fruit and vegetable farm side-by-side for 16 years.

Rounding out the group is Ryan Patterson of Patterson Greenhouses in Lee County, NC. Patterson grows tomatoes, tobacco, corn, soybeans, wheat and rapeseed – he’s utilizing a unique trailer-mounted; woodchip-burning boiler to heat his greenhouse from October to April, and cure tobacco leaves from July to September.

You don’t want to miss this movie or this opportunity to hear from North Carolina farmers. You cannot talk about our history without talking about agriculture. The story of agriculture is the story of North Carolina’s history.

About The Author:

Jennifer is a North Carolina native, a mother, the daughter of a farmer and a professional writer focusing on North Carolina culture, travel, art, food, agriculture and farm life. She is a strong believer that kindness is a boomerang exercise – you should help build others up whenever you can.

Follow Jennifer’s “What’s Growing On?” blog posts on North Carolina food and agriculture here on FeedTheDialogueNC.com.

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