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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Getting "behind the seeds"

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!!

This week's tip is about a tour my family took during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World. One of my favorite attractions at Epcot is located in the Land pavilion (and no, I'm not talking about Soarin', though it's my most favorite attraction at Epcot and one of my top three in all of WDW... but that's a post for another time). I'm talking about Living with the Land. It's a great boat-ride attraction to see all the new innovations in agriculture (and other fields). The downside of the attraction is that you get only a few seconds to see each part of the greenhouses and learn about all the new discoveries in how we can grow food.

The good news is Disney offers a special tour called "Behind the Seeds." In groups of about 15 people, Disney will take guests back stage to see some of the day-to-day operation in the Land greenhouses. The tour costs $14 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-9. It lasts about 30-45 minutes and is well worth the cost, even for children.

The tour begins in a backstage area where you learn about how Disney has developed it's natural pest control. I won't go into specifics so as not to ruin the tour for you, but it's pretty neat how Disney manages pests in the greenhouses.

Also, kids (two of mine, in fact) get to help out a little later in the tour. In the photo above, our guide, Fred, hands my children a small bottle from a refrigerator. Inside some ladybugs are taking a nap, thanks to the cold temperatures. Soon, they will wake up and be ready to go to work. Hidden Mickey alert -- see the inset in the photo? I think that's another hidden Mickey, though it's kind of hard to see at this angle. It might be a butterfly.

After a quick safety talk, especially about the need to stay out of the "sand," though it's not normal sand, we head out to the greenhouses with a quick stop to view a lab, where Disney scientists are culturing plants using plant tissues.

The "Behind the Seeds" tour runs in the opposite direction of Living with the Land. The first room we entered was the hydroponics greenhouse, where Disney is working to grow plants without much soil. I was amazed at the volume of vegetables and/or herbs Disney manages to grow from one plant. We even tried a cucumber grown hydroponicly and it was one of the sweetest cucumbers I've ever had.

Our guide, Fred, then demonstrated how we could make our own hydroponic tank (see above) and gave us some printed instructions. This is going to be one of our summer projects and I look forward to all the herbs we will get from the tank. It doesn't look to be all that difficult, either.

Anyway, after the hydroponics room, we moved over to another hydroponics room. Here you can see a huge set of hidden Mickeys made by the arrangement of different plants. All the while when you're on the tour, you get this sense of doing something exclusive as you watch guests on the boat ride glide past.

Remember those ladybugs the kids got at the beginning of the tour? It was time to set the free and let them do their thing to combat bad bugs. My two children were the only ones allowed to acutally set foot into and underneath one of the plants to release ladybugs (with Fred's help) onto one tub of sweet potatoes. That's right, what you see in the light brown hanging planters are huge sweet potatoes. Disney is working to grow the largest sweet potatoes in the world.

After the ladybug room, we went into another greenhouse where we got a close-up look at those mickey-shaped pumpkins. It's pretty neat how Disney makes those. Sadly, they're not for sale.

Next up was the aquaculture room. This was one room where it was great to be on the walking tour. We had plenty of time to get a good look at all the marine life Disney was farming. I saw what had to be the largest shrimp in my life. It was huge!!! There's also a great hidden Mickey in this room (see my previous post for more on this).

Our final stop took us to the oldest greenhouse and the first you enter on the boat ride. Here we got a close-up look at a blooming banana plant (something that's somewhat rare, if I recall) and got a chance to play "what's that spice?" as we sniffed different everyday spices and tried to identify them and then see the actual plant the spice came from.

In all, the "Behind the Seeds" tour takes about 30-45 minutes and I highly recommend it for all families, most especially for those interested in gardening. My three children found the tour very interesting. My daughter loved the mickey-shaped and Cinderella's carriage pumpkins. My wife and I were fascinated at how efficient hydroponics can be and we plan to make our own hydroponic tank.

So if you like Living with the Land, you'll love "Behind the Seeds." It's worth the time and give you some special backstage access most guests don't get to see.


MaryJo said...

I think my children would really enjoy the tour as well. How many people were taking the tour at the same time?
Great job, Chuck.

Chuck Lionberger said...

About 15 max.

Kimberlee said...

I am an adult and I would enjoy it! Nice tip!

Jamie Collins said...

Nice Post Chuck! I have always wondered about this tour. I am glad to hear it is worthwhile, and also good for children. Are advance reservations necessary or did you check on availability that day?


Jeff Heimbuch said...

Excellent write up, sir! I wanted to do this last time I was there and just couldnt find the time. I will be sure to get in there next time Im at Epcot! Sounds like a blast!

Chuck Lionberger said...

Jamie -- no reservations needed. It's first-come, first serve. When we took the tour, we went over to the desk right after coming off a morning Soarin' ride.

We were able to get a tour about 2-3 hours later. Once you get your time, just return to the Behind the Seeds desk about 15-20 minutes before your tour begins.

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