We’ve mentioned a few times how much we love EPCOT, and today I’d like to talk about one specific location in my favorite Disney park: The Land. You’ll find The Land Pavilion to the right side of Spaceship Earth. Inside The Land are a number of different things to visit including the Garden Grille, a restaurant that spins slowly while you’re eating. The major ride in the pavilion is called Living With The Land and it is a slow moving boat ride that takes you through a history of food production ending in Disney’s own greenhouses. As a budding biologist, you can imagine what my favorite part of that ride was!

Biggest tomato tree (yes, I said tree) ever. Photo by Joel Kramer

Well, it turned out that Disney not only had greenhouses in which they grew food, food that was actually served in the restaurants in The Land Pavilion and in EPCOT, but that they gave behind the scenes tours of them. When I was about twelve (if I remember correctly), we first found out about the Behind the Seeds tour, although back then I don’t think it even had such a fancy name. You had to go to the shop and ask about it, all hidden and sneaky-like. Very few people knew about the tours and I believe most of the ones I went on only had 3-5 people.

Hydroponic lettuce, also, a hidden Mickey! Another photo by Joel

I learned a ton from those tours. I learned about using natural options instead of pesticides like wasps and ladybugs to help get rid of plant-eating aphids. I learned how they make Cinderella shaped pumpkins. I learned why you plant legumes and grains together. I also learned about hydroponics, or soil-free growing. Disney has one of the most interesting hydroponics systems. They have a number of vertical growing columns with irrigation inside of them. They have systems that spray water and nutrients directly on free-hanging roots. Really, their whole hydroponics room is a young biologists dream for innovation and experimentation.

Vertical root-hanging fun! Photo by Sam Howzit

Of course, I had to stop going on the tours eventually. For one thing, they have become quite popular and can be hard to get into without planning early in the day. The second thing, however, is that as I became a more educated biologist, I started asking questions that they couldn’t answer. Now that I have a PhD, I probably should just ride the Living With the Land ride and stay out of the tours!

Rosemary is for remembrance … of my awesome Disney greenhouse tours! Photo by Benjamin Reed

It’s interesting that now I belong to a farm share program where the farm grows mostly using hydroponic methods. I went to see their farm, and was able to really intelligently talk about crop growth with the owners. Considering that botany is overall my weakest area in biology, I was pretty impressed with me. Thanks Disney!

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