Many happy horticulturalists sprout from visits to the Land Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park. The Land Pavilion houses a restaurant and several attractions, but the star of the show is the large greenhouse complex through which visitors float via boat. During the boat ride, visitors learn about hydroponic gardening and aquaculture—with many visitors receiving their first look at this unusual form of farming.
Mickey Mouse Shaped Vegetables
A highlight of the tour is a view of “Mickey Mouse” shaped fruits and vegetables growing. Cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and pumpkins all become “The Mouse.” This feat of farming is accomplished by fitting mouse-shaped plastic enclosures around fruits as they begin to form. As they grow, they will fill out the shape, turning into Mickey Mouse himself—only more orange!
All of the vegetables and fruits grown in The Land are served around the Walt Disney World resort. Nine pound lemons, huge eggplants, tomatoes from the “tomato tree,” lettuce of every variety and more are staples of The Land’s regular plantings.
Ground-Breaking Hydroponic Research
In addition to the fun of huge vegetables and oddly shaped fruits, serious research in hydroponic gardening and aquaculture happens in The Land. Hydroponic research for NASA includes experiments about growing plants without soil or water. Such research could help future explorations into space, and make vegetable growing on distant planets a reality! Visitors are treated to plants growing without soil or water. These plants are hanging in the air on a special rotating fixture. The plants are intermittently sprayed with a nutrient solution, providing water and nutrients to the plants.
Hydroponic Forms and Fixtures
Plants in The Land grow in every type of growing media available. They grow in sand, soil, water, nutrient solutions and even in the air! Trays, spiral hanging fixtures, traditional troughs, and other fixtures sprout lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, microgreens and more.
Hydroponics and Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture techniques are of great concern for the future. Soil continues to erode with every planting season, and farming as we know it will not last forever. The Land Pavilion researches sustainable agricultural practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), crop rotation, inter-cropping, irrigation techniques and hydroponics.
Hydroponic gardening is key to large-scale sustainable agriculture, as many rotations of crops can be produced with no disturbance of the soil. Nutrient solutions can be recycled and purified, and hydroponics, despite the fact that it is primarily driven by nutrient solutions in water, uses less water than traditional farming methods. Hydroponic gardening also allows production of food crops in areas that traditionally are too dry, cold, or otherwise inhospitable to traditional farming methods.
Living With the Land
The Land Pavilion at Epcot is a wonderful place to introduce visitors young and old, experienced and novice to the idea of hydroponic gardening. Viewing plants growing soil-less for the first time is a mind boggling experience, sure to stay with someone for years. It is possible that the seed of interested planted by the visit to The Land Pavilion will blossom into a life-long interest in horticulture and hydroponics.
You can see some interesting shots inside the greenhouse portion of the tour on this video posted at YouTube.