Have you ever wanted to be a part of the attraction instead of just experiencing it? Did you know that you can? Living With the Land is a gentle 15-minute boat ride around the Land Pavilion and through Disney’s fully functioning Epcot greenhouses. But the best part is not the ride, it’s the Behind the Seeds Tour.
I’ve been visiting Epcot for years and had never taken the time to enjoy the hour-long, walking tour. On our most recent trip, we were media guests and had the pleasure of experiencing Behind the Seeds for ourselves. Some important things you should know: the cost is $25 per person, you will be walking and/or standing throughout most of the tour (though it’s not strenuous), you are given a headset to better hear your Cast Member tour guide, you will be in close proximity to dozens of live plants, and for part of the tour, you’ll be on stage!
Prior to our tour, we met up with other guests near the Behind the Seeds Tour desk and then a Cast Member took us to a backstage entrance. From there, we were introduced to our guide Sara, who’d recently graduated from the University of Missouri and was completing an internship program with Disney. Everyone was given a headset with one earpiece so that we could hear Sara during the tour.
Our first stop was to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) where we learned about different insects that are harmful to plant life (Leafminer Flies) and those that are beneficial. We learned that the helpful ladybugs used to be released as part of the tour, but they have since started their own population and protect the plants on their own. While Disney does what they can to keep harmful insects away, they occasionally have to spray as a last resort. However, the IPM is successful enough that with over 150 plant varieties in the greenhouses only one or two of them need to be sprayed on a weekly basis.
We talked about tissue culturing for plants and while we didn’t get to go into the lab as its sterile, we could see some of the plants. Most tissue cultures live in jars for 3-4 months under infrared and ultraviolet lights. Red for roots, blue for shoots! After the successful culturing, they are then transplanted and grow on their own.
Sara then took us into the greenhouse where we learned about Verti-gro systems and Hydroponic Gro-tanks. These special methods use growth mediums other than soil to maximize space and provide a base that’s easier to maintain. The verti-gro method only takes up one square foot of space but can hold up to forty plants. The hydroponic tanks—aquariums—allow plants to grow and thrive in water. While they still need nutrients, soil is not essential for all plants. These innovative growing techniques free up space on the ground. Sara also treated us to a sample of cucumbers grown in the greenhouses.
We continued on to the next greenhouse which is “on stage” and discussed growing fruits and vegetables in certain shapes. When plants reach the desired size (candy bar for a cucumber) they are placed in molds and continue to grow to full size and ripeness. What do you think this mold is used for?
After discussing molds and other growth techniques, our tour took us to the aquaponics portion where we fed Disney’s tilapia fish and learned about their role and benefit to plant life.
Finally, we discussed fruits and spices and even had a spice challenge. Sara passed around unmarked jars with five of the world’s most expensive spices — vanilla, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves — and we had to guess, by smell, what each one was.
The Behind the Seeds Tour was fun and educational and it was really amazing to be inside the greenhouse and see the plants up close. Sara was knowledgeable and passionate about her role at Disney and Epcot and made our tour so enjoyable. If you have ever considered participating, you should! It’s a great way to be a part of an attraction and it’s relatively inexpensive. The next time you think, gee, I don’t want to wait in line for a ride, don’t. Head over to The Land and check out the Behind the Seeds Tour.