Behind the Seeds Tour: Review
Just make believe you’re a tiny little seed,
a tiny little seed that’s reaching up to meet your need.
With the right amount of faith and the right amount of earth
you’ll grow to see the sunshine on your day of birth.
Let’s listen to the land we all love.
Nature’s plan will shine above.
Listen to the land, listen to the land.
I am huge fan of vintage Epcot attractions and pavilions. I have fond memories of the Listen to Land attraction (now Living with the Land) from my first trip to the World in 1987. And I know many of you were singing those lyrics up there just like me! Although I could wax nostalgic about the other food centered attractions that used to grace The Land Pavilion (“Veggie, Veggie, Fruit Fruit!”), I am thankful that the original flagship attraction has remained even with the changes it has undergone over the years.
I often found myself wanting to know more about this attraction and the technology used to grow the vegetables, fruits, and grains in the greenhouses. The aquaculture in the strange red glowing corridor didn’t interest me quite as much. With the cuts that took away the live guide on the boats replacing them with a recorded spiel I felt like something was missing.
On each of the trips my family takes I try to include something new and different (not a difficult task with all that the Walt Disney World Resort has to offer), and the assortment of behind the scenes tours are a great way to put a little variety into your trip. Unfortunately, most of these experiences require children to be 16 or older. There are a few that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, and the Behind the Seeds tour is one of those.
Reservations for Behind the Seeds tours can be made in advance by calling 1-407-WDW-TOUR, and I would recommend doing this well in advance to secure your preferred time and date. You can also make day-of arrangements at the tour desk (located just outside the entrance to Soarin) if there are spots available. The price for the tour is fantastic in Disney terms, adults are $18 and children are $14, and many discounts have been available for Disney Visa Cardholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, Annual Passholders, AAA—be sure to ask if you have anything you think might get you a discount. The tour lasts about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your guide. Photography is allowed on the tour and it is an interesting perspective to be on the other side of the boats.
I’ve taken this tour twice, each time with one of my sons as a special thing for us to do together while Dad takes the other brothers. While I enjoyed it both times, the quality of the guide you get makes a big difference in the tour. The guides are the interns who are working in the greenhouses at The Land, and they each have specialties. The first guide I had did not tell us her specialty, but on the second tour our guide specialized in aquaculture. This can also affect the emphasis of your tour although there are some key points that all the tours cover. For this review I will focus on the most recent tour that I took with my 9 year old on his birthday.
We arrived a bit early for our 2:00 tour and checked in at the tour counter. As I said, this is just to the left of the entrance to Soarin’. I asked about going on an earlier tour, but they were not able to accommodate us since it was full. So, we got our nametags and spent a little time out in the pavilion then sat on the benches to the side to wait for our guide. Our group began to gather—the groups consist of around 10-15 people.
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Our guide greeted us and we went into a non-descript entrance area where we took care of the usual introductions of who we were and where we lived and a bit of why we were there for the tour. He let us know about his background, but left his specialty up for speculation and would take guesses from us at the end of the tour.
Once the tour begins you are escorted into the greenhouses and the first stop is inside a research lab to watch a short video and view some insects in glass cages. This is to learn about the “good bugs” and the “bad bugs” for crops and how the good insects are used to eradicate the bad ones. This is when the children in the group were given a vile of ladybugs (technically “Lady Beetles” I believe) that they would release later in the greenhouse. The option was given to anyone in the group if they wanted to do the ladybug release.
We did stroll past some of the other labs like the Biotechnology lab, but because it is a sterile environment we did not enter. What we see in the window of this lab comes into play at the end of the tour.
Our next stop was the actual greenhouses. Here we learned about the various growing techniques they use, including how to create our own hydroponic garden at home. This is one of the areas of the greenhouse that has fascinated me since I was a kid. They have a demonstration tank set up for this and give everyone an instruction sheet to take home. I had the best of intentions, but alas there are no hydroponic tomatoes being grown at our house. Our guide told us about some of the more unusual and interesting crops they were growing and their benefits, like the ancient grain amaranth which is gluten free and has a high quality protein. Of course there is always the Mickey shaped crops, the high-yield tomato “tree,” and the dragon fruit. We even got to sample slices of the cucumbers they are growing.
After moving further through the greenhouse we arrived in the aquaculture “red room.” It was interesting on this visit because some of the other interns were in the alligator tank cleaning it. We had a close up view of the Hidden Mickeys in that area (inside the shrimp cylinder, and the hose on the ground). In this location anyone who wanted to feed the fish (I believe it was the tilapia) were allowed to do so. I stood back to take pictures of my son taking part and I am glad that I did. Those were some hungry fish! Everyone who fed them got splashed when they enthusiastically clamored for the pellets.
The last segment of the tour was about the spices that are grown in the greenhouses. This was an interactive portion with the spices being passed around for identification, then pointing out the plants from which they came. Our guide also mentioned some of the popular uses for the less well known spices. They have a plant there that you can eat and then everything you eat tastes sweet for a certain amount of time. I told my son we needed to grow one of those so he would eat his green beans!
At this point our tour was well past the one hour mark, and was ready for the conclusion. I didn’t check at the time, but I think our tour lasted at least an hour and half. When asked no one correctly guessed the specialty of our guide—as I mentioned earlier it was aquaculture. He led us back through the greenhouses and we exited where we began at the tour desk. This was handy because at the tour desk they sell the little miniature plants that are enclosed in a clear container and planted in a special growth medium. These are cuttings of the plants in the greenhouses and are planted in one of that Biotechnology Lab that you peer into on the tour (great marketing Disney). So, once we purchased a tiny dragon fruit in the Mickey’s Garden packaging we completed our Behind the Seeds Tour experience.
This is a great tour and an excellent way to experience one of Disney’s attractions in more detail. It also makes a great science lesson for children. If you are interested in gardening then I would highly recommend it. Although our tour was a bit on the long side, it was enjoyable for both my son and for me. There were other children on the tour around his age (9), who were a bit more restless than he was, but most of them seemed engaged in the experience. I do not think this would be a good experience for children under 6 unless they really had an interest in vegetables or gardening (and I don’t know many 4 year olds who would say they had a keen interest in vegetables, but I’m sure they are out there). The greenhouses are a bit stuffy, but it was a very hot day when we toured and I was never uncomfortable. They do have a cooling system that provides some relief to the Florida temperatures. At one point on our tour there were a couple of benches that you could rest on while the guide described the plants, but there was not enough room for everyone, so be prepared for standing and walking through the entire tour. It was a fun way to spend our afternoon, and interesting to see how they grow these vegetables that do end up on the tables at some of the Walt Disney World resort restaurants.