Our tour guide motioned for us to gather round.
He would soon give us the best quote of our entire Disney trip. It went something like,
My name is Joe. I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in horticulture so you know, "this is my jam."
We knew we were going to have a great time with Joe.
I love the Living with the Land ride at Epcot. I know a lot of people consider it boring , but for someone like me who loves gardening and growing things, it holds endless fascination. On a prior trip as our boat floated through the vegetation, we spotted a group of guests walking through the hydroponic garden.
As I wondered how they were able to wander around the garden, a voice overhead stated that Epcot offered a special behind the scenes tour of the greenhouse. I turned to Shannon and said,
“We should do that,” and although we didn’t have time that trip, this time we carved out a morning to take The Land’s Behind the Seeds Tour.
The first two positives about the Behind the Seeds Tour are 1) it is a affordable 2) it only takes an hour so you don’t feel like it will eat up a good portion of your park day.
We started off in biological control where Joe gave his personal introduction and then told us about Disney’s commitment to horticultural research, especially their commitment to use permaculture whenever possible.
Being a fan of permaculture I listened intently. There were aquariums of various insects in the lab. Some, like the ladybugs, were grown for pest control in the greenhouse. Some were insects that were being studied to see how they interact and impact certain plants. If they can help it, Disney does not use any chemicals in their greenhouses. They try their best to control pests and plant diseases as naturally as possible. This was the part of the tour where I started throwing jealous glances at the one and only kid in our group because he of course was handed the very special vial of newly hatched ladybugs to be released at the end of the tour.
The best part of the tour is being able to walk through the domed green house.
It's more spectacular close up than riding through it in the boat.
Disney is always trying to find new ways to grow things.
They like hanging things like watermelons
My favorite item was the tomato tree. It's even more impressive in person.
Disney is also working on growing tomato vines horizontally.
There was a not so hidden Mickey in the fish farm.
While we were on the tour we watched the ride boats go by. Passengers would look at us and sometimes point. I imagined that they were saying what we said once,
"We should do that some time." Then we spotted a boat filled with the monks we saw in the Magic Kingdom the day before.
A good portion of the tour is spent learning about hydroponic gardening.
Joe did a great job answering everyone's questions. He was very knowledgeable but also had a genuine non-corny humorous side that made the tour informative and entertaining.
We got a small snack in the hydroponic garden. Hydroponic cucumber slices.
I was the only one in the group who raised their hand when Joe asked if anyone wanted seconds. Mmmmm cucumber slices.
We also received instructions for starting our own at home hydroponic garden using a fish tank. We planned on trying it during the winter, but that never happened. We still have the instructions though so maybe next year.
During the tour I was obsessed with the sand that is used throughout the greenhouse. It was meticulously raked like one enormous continuous Japanese zen garden.
I finally asked Joe about the pristine sand. He said that each cast member who works in the greenhouse is responsible for a section of the sand. The sand must be "show ready" at all times in the sections that the ride and tour can see. If you have to walk in the garden to tend to your plants, you then have to rake the sand to make it perfect. I thought that that part of the job would be relaxing given it's zen garden vibe. Joe admitted that some days it is relaxing, but at other times the sand is the bane of his existence. If you mess up even a little, or if someone else, say a non-rule following tour guest (we were advised at the beginning not to touch or step on the sand) messes with your sand, it has to be raked all over again.
At the end of the tour we learned a little more about various plants and produce grown in the garden and the kid with the ladybugs finally set them free to feast on pests. Joe then wrapped everything up and offered to take everyone's picture before we were escorted back to the non-behind the scenes section of The Land Pavilion.
I thought the Behind the Seeds Tour was great and well worth the $20.00 and hour of our park time. I recommend it especially if you, like me, enjoy gardens and growing things. See if Joe is giving any tours on the day that you book, after all, it's his jam.