History of the Harvest

Discover the connections between North Carolina's agricultural past with today’s cutting-edge research and development. 

What began as a few outdoor garden beds showcasing North Carolina’s agricultural legacy has blossomed into a living, thriving exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The museum has partnered with Syngenta, located in Research Triangle Park and Greensboro, to make the exhibit grow.

A “first” for the museum, the chronological exhibit History of the Harvest connects the state’s agricultural past with today’s cutting-edge research and development by universities and companies such as Syngenta. This block-long exhibit flourishes in planting beds along Bicentennial Plaza, a well-traveled walkway between the State Capitol and the State Legislative Building.

History of the Harvest serves as an exciting outdoor classroom that gives visitors and passers-by a hands-on opportunity to learn firsthand about North Carolina agriculture, from medicinal plants grown by American Indians before European contact to new corn hybrids developed by using advanced plant-breeding technology.

Syngenta’s sponsorship provides funding support and helps the museum bring the history of the state’s agriculture from the past to the present. Syngenta Flowers also provided flowers for the exhibit — and as a result, nearly 1,000 flowers will brighten the museum’s entranceway.

“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 of History. “Our partnership with Syngenta helps bring that story to the present by looking at current trends and practices in the field of agriculture. Syngenta’s contributions to agricultural research and development are making history around the world.”

Visitors to History of the Harvest also learn about agricultural-related contributions to the state’s economy, how North Carolinians have used plants, and the global issues of hunger and sustainable agriculture.

“Syngenta values the opportunity to not only educate museum visitors on the rich agricultural foundation of North Carolina, but also to share the research and development conducted within the state,” said Syngenta Head of Biology Research Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, who also oversees the company’s R&D activities in Research Triangle Park. “North Carolina has always flourished as a leader in research and development, and it continues to pave the way for future innovations in agriculture. Working with the museum on this exhibit allows us to illustrate this evolution — where we’ve been, where we are now, and where our innovations can take us in the future.”

History of the Harvest is presented in six sections with distinct planting beds. Large informational signs will guide visitors as they walk along Bicentennial Plaza.

“Nature’s Gardens” and “Gardens of Life and Health,” the first two sections, focus on medicinal and culinary plants that were indigenous to the state or introduced by settlers. This section includes plants such as sassafras, rivercane, rosemary and rue.

“Early Agriculture” centers on the “three sisters” companion planting arrangement traditionally used by American Indians in North Carolina. Corn, beans and squash, the “three sisters,” were grown together because the plants benefit each other.

“Changing Landscapes” features tobacco and cotton, which have a history as cash crops in the Tar Heel State. Today, North Carolina leads the nation in sweet potato production. Sweet potatoes, peanuts and sorghum grow in this section as well.

“From Field to Lab” highlights biotechnology and how North Carolina’s agriculture has become a complex web of agribusinesses competing on a world market. Visitors can compare the water-optimized Syngenta hybrid corn in this bed with the corn in the previous section.

“Symbols of the State” includes the dogwood (state flower), blueberries (one of the state berries) and other seasonal plants. The visual appeal of Syngenta Flowers’ Angelonia and Ipomoea flower varieties enhance the state’s symbols.


Biotechnology and the Challenges of Agriculture, a conversation with Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, World Food Prize Laureate and founding director and distinguished science fellow at Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.

Listen to the Podcast

Dr. Chilton talks about spending part of her childhood growing up in North Carolina, her work producing the first transgenic (genetically engineered) plants, and her role in creating a world-class research facility at Research Triangle Park. Approximate run time: 36 minutes.

About Syngenta

Syngenta is one of the world’s leading companies with more than 28,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers, we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us, please go to www.syngenta.com.