Jill Fehrenbacher

MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING at Disney EPCOT

by , 07/26/07

MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING?, EPCOT Center Sustainable Farming Initiative, Living With the Land, Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins, genetic engineering, Mickey pumpkins, genetically modified crops, hydroponics, Walt Disney World Farming, EPCOT farming, EPCOT agriculture(EPCOT agriculture intern shows off specially grown Mickey-shaped pumpkin)

Anyone who’s ever been to Florida has probably visited Walt Disney World, and if you have – you’ve hopefully visited EPCOT center, which is by far the most interesting part of the behemoth theme park that covers Orlando, FL. EPCOT stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” and was originally intended to be a futuristic model community based on utopian modernist ideas of communal living, no cars and no private ownership. Much of the design of the park is lifted straight from Buckminster Fuller’s ideas and drawings, including the massive geodesic sphere which now houses theme park rides. Sounds like it would be right up Inhabitat’s alley, right?


MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING?, EPCOT CENTER, Bucky Ball at Epcot Center, Spaceship Earth, Geodesic Dome, Buckminster Fuller, Mickey Mouse Buckminster Fuller, EPCOT Center Sustainable Farming Initiative, Living With the Land, Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins, genetic engineering, Mickey pumpkins, genetically modified crops, hydroponics, Walt Disney World Farming, EPCOT farming, EPCOT agricultureEPCOT’S trademark Bucky Ball

Today EPCOT is just a shadow of its original ambitions – more theme-park than experimental community with lots of roller-coaster rides, creepily antiquated “visions of the future” exhibits with talking animatronic robots, and a global village tourist trap. However, there is still one area of EPCOT where actual experimentation is still taking place — in agricultural technology. EPCOT has several large greenhouses (2.5 million square feet!) which not only produce much of the food for EPCOT inhabitants (including Mickey Mouse shaped vegetables), but has been at the forefront of experiments with high-tech and high-yield indoor plant growing techniques such as hydroponics for years. Mickey-shaped vegetables are just the beginning of the madness I encountered on a recent visit to check out the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow…

I spent the majority of my time at EPCOT hovering around the LAND exhibit and going on behind-the-scenes tours of EPCOT’s greenhouses. The entire agri-tech research center area has been re-branded under the rubric of “sustainability” and now includes a public exhibition on agricultural technology and global ecology called ‘Living With Land’ – a rousing exhibit on farming and agricultural innovation which takes the very 1950′s-esque position that humanity can solve its food shortages and environmental problems by improving agricultural technology. I’m not really sure that I buy this, but the exhibit was certainly a fascinating romp through the history of “the future”.

MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING?, EPCOT Center Sustainable Farming Initiative, Living With the Land, Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins, genetic engineering, Mickey pumpkins, genetically modified crops, hydroponics, Walt Disney World Farming, EPCOT farming, EPCOT agriculture

MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING?, EPCOT Center Sustainable Farming Initiative, Living With the Land, Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins, genetic engineering, Mickey pumpkins, genetically modified crops, hydroponics, Walt Disney World Farming, EPCOT farming, EPCOT agriculture

First stop on the “Behind the Seeds Tour” was a look at what you can do with vine plants (like tomatoes) when you remove the constraints of gravity. This amazingly huge “Tomato-tree” below, with thousands of ripening tomatoes all on one plant, was achieved simply by providing a matrix of structural support for the entire plant, enabling it to grow much bigger than it ever could under ordinary circumstances where gravity would be weighing it down. I’m guessing that some crazy fertilizer or genetic engineering might have had something to do with the prodigiousness of the plant as well – our intern guide wasn’t very clear on the exact nature of the giant tomato plant.

Giant Gravity-Free Tomato TreeThe amazing giant tomato tree

Endless TomatoesEndless tomatoes

Hydroponic technology was also used copiously throughout the EPCOT greenhouses – growing lettuce, herbs, and a variety of other plants simply out of water and nutrients. You might be thinking to yourself, “So what? What is the benefit of growing vegetables without soil?” Actually there are a lot of benefits to this high-tech growing method. First of all, soil-less hydroponic systems often give plants more nutrition – allowing them to grow faster – while at the same time consuming less energy and space. They use less water than crops grown the natural way, and also allow growers to stack plants closer together and on top of one another, so they are a more efficient way to produce food. Finally, hydroponic crops like lettuce can often be shipped alive in their water solution to their destination, allowing a higher degree of freshness in produce for consumers.

MICKEY MOUSE SUSTAINABLE FARMING?, EPCOT Center Sustainable Farming Initiative, Living With the Land, Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins, genetic engineering, Mickey pumpkins, genetically modified crops, hydroponics, Walt Disney World Farming, EPCOT farming, EPCOT agricultureHydroponic “Nutrient Film Technique” for growing lettuce

Next stop on the “Living With the Land” tour took us up close and personal with stacked gardens. While we love the idea of maximizing space and efficiency by vertically stacking plants, we can’t figure out why on earth a greenhouse preaching sustainability uses STYROFOAM pots for all their plants! A precocious 6-year-old boy on my tour apparently noticed the same thing and asked our intern-guide why there was so much styrofoam, since the foam plastic is not biodegradable and not really a “sustainable” choice for an exhibit on sustainability. Our guide, apparently not understanding the implications of the question, explained glibly that EPCOT uses styrofoam because it is cheap, lightweight and easy to toss out in order to get fresh new pots daily. Huh?

Styrofoam in Epcott Sustainable Agriculture Exhibit

The 6-year-old then asked our guide about genetic experimentation, and pretty quickly we all learn that most of the crops within the “Living With The Land” greenhouses are genetically modified. At this point in the tour I’m starting to think that perhaps EPCOT needs to give media training to their interns – because lots of talk about genetically modified crops and copious use of styrofoam “because its cheap and disposable” doesn’t exactly paint the rosiest of pictures for an exhibit supposedly about “Living With The Land”

Apparently Nestle Corporation is the main sponsor of this exhibit at EPCOT, which explains some of the questionable claims and dubious greenwashing on display at “Living with the Land.” Nestle is, after all, one of those food companies with an infamous track record – second only to big tobacco in the amount of deaths and illness it has caused through aggressively marketing dangerous practices to the public. (As documented in this great article in the Guardian, Nestle is widely known to have caused the deaths of many babies around the world through aggressively pushing their unsafe and unhealthy baby formula as a “better” alternative than breastfeeding to impoverished mothers in the third world.)

Despite all this, however, one thing that EPCOT’s greenhouses seem to do pretty well is to grow Mickey-shaped vegetables. Pumpkins growing in plastic Mickey-head-shaped molds were prominently displayed throughout the greenhouses, churning out pumpkins with visible “ears” on either side of their head. We were also fortunate enough to get a look at Mickey cucumbers as well. (The Mickey shape is extruded throughout the length of the cucumber, so that when you slice the lumpy and odd-looking cucumber, each flat slice resembles Mickey Mouse’s head). Yowza!

At the end of the day, these Mickey-head franken-vegetables seemed to be the sole remaining raison d’etre of EPCOT’s The Land exhibit. While EPCOT’s agricultural experiments with hydroponics and IPM were at one time groundbreaking, today the research has been overtaken by the fiscal need to entertain the public. And, in terms of entertainment, EPCOT succeeds on all levels. Walking through greenhouses tasting cucumbers and playing with ladybugs sure beats “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” In my opinion, however, the best part of EPCOT is the history it evokes: the 1950’s obsession with the future and the ability to see the world through the idealistic eyes of a more optimistic era – an era that believed technological innovation could solve social ills. All that remains of that world now is a giant Bucky Ball (with a giant detached Mickey arm) and a lot of genetically modified Mickey-shaped vegetables in styrofoam containers.

+ Living With The Land at EPCOT


+ History of “The Land” at EPCOT

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55 Comments

  1. jsalameh May 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    It is absolutely sick that Disney is trying to brainwash children into thinking that GMOs are healthy and in any way bettering our earth. Just how much have GMOs reduced hunger globally…none! They are giving people cancer and making people sick! Why do GMOs HAVE to be labeled in Europe….because the people are educated enough to know that the body does not accept the food as nutritious food and the immune system goes into overdrive immediately to combat the abnormal substance. This is just yet another way that corporations and our government can dumb the mass down and map profits off of their corruption!

  2. Cloudwalker May 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

    What a horror! It this what we really want to pass on to future generations!? Here’s the human presumption of “playing God” without considering the disastrous consequences just because they aren’t visible to the naked eye or short-term. Don’t we learn anything from ecological disasters have caused so far? I do not want my children to see any of this. I will work and educate them to respect the fragile balance of our planet and natural that it took so long to achieve, and has not stopped evolving, without interference from the unbalanced and uncounscient human hand.

  3. stargarden4 March 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I enjoyed seeing how they maximized space in the gardens, saw some approaches I would like to try, but I would be weary using Pvc. I wonder how much the produce absorbs with the breakdown of the PVC by the UV radiation.

  4. aorgh January 5, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/09/20/farmer-grows-pumpkins-with-human-faces/

    the thing is. the moulded veg idea isn’t new at all. im fairly certain 1938 preceeded 1989

    Pumpkins with human faces have been produced by John M. Czeski, Ohio farmer, after four years of experimenting. To grow the novel fruit, Czeski fashions an aluminum mold of the head he wants to reproduce, and places it around a growing pumpkin approximately the size of a small grapefruit. After the pumpkin has expanded enough to fill the inside contours, the mold is removed. The print of the features remains as the pumpkin continues to grow, and the final result is a lifelike full-size image in the ripened fruit.

  5. Vanessa December 26, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    FYI…I was once one of the turquoise-costume-clad Greenhouse interns at the Land pavilion two years ago, and I’d like to clarify some misunderstandings. The styrofoam containers used were returned to the company that produced them to recycle. We’d grow the veggies/herbs, collect the containers in the back off-stage, and the company that made them would pick up our grimmy ones and give us clean white ones to replant. The main purpose for that exhibit was to show the benefits of growing vertically to save space, as oppose to a single layer of horizontal growth that take up too much land. We did NOT toss the styrofoam out everyday. Depending on the crop, we’d replace them every few weeks once the plants had finished producing. I worked in a portion of the greenhouse that used A LOT of those containers to grow peppers, and I never ONCE put them in the dumpster.

    The tomato tree…what a love/hate relationship I had with that thing, given it grew in my designated portion of the greenhouse. It was actually a clone (re: just a cutting…nothing freaky) from a plant from CHINA, not Japan like one commenter said. Unfortunately, your tour guide was ill informed as to how it produced so many tomatoes. It actually has indeterminate growth, meaning it grows as much as its training will allow. It was BRED that way, not unlike other crops selected for their high yield rates. It was not freakishly mutated. We experimented the same technique with normal garden variety eggplants, peppers, and other gourds. Its all in the way we trained the plant with trellises. There may have been a little extra nitrogen in the nutrient water to promote growth, but any gardener will tell you that they also encourage their veggies the same way.

    The six-year-old uncovered a lack of knowledge by your tour guide, but not huge Disney misdeeds. And given the date of your article, it sounds like you caught a tour during the summer transition to brand spankin’ new college interns, still “green” behind the ears…excuse the pun.

  6. y.Hooshmandan December 17, 2007 at 2:29 am

    dear sir
    please send me more about hydrobolic and cube water melon

  7. guy November 20, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    its science. creepy science

  8. JC October 9, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    So I was once a college program cast member at the land and worked the greenhouse boat ride for about 3 months. What a FUN job! I was there when construction for their major remodeling (’05) was still going on so I got to learn my spiel without guests as well as enjoy the greenhouses alone on a boat (even smoked a cig in the ‘desert scene’). I’m surprised ‘Kerry’ your intern for the ‘behind the seeds tour’ wasn’t more knowledgeable as even though its been near 3 years I can still remember the story behind the tomato ‘tree’. This might be due to the fact as land cast members we were given an extended ‘behind the seeds’ tour not given to guests and actually saw all of the 2.5mil feet of greenhouse and even got to taste some of those tomatoes (very sweet). As a journalist you might have been able to swing getting the extended version but you would have had to have talked to guest relations. Anyway the people running the agricultural department know a lot more than the interns and in fact when given the regular tour I had some questions that the interns couldn’t answer but the guides for the extended cast only tour could. As far as the tomato ‘tree’, the story was that clones from Japan were grown, and that these clones came from GM plants in Japan and that the Land was the only place in America these particular clones could be found (this might have been spiel bullshit as I really think the growing technique had a lot more to do with the ‘treeness’ than genetics). I’m sure optimal levels of nutrient are given to the ‘trees’ and yes, the horizontal trellis maximized growth and increased stability in supporting the weight of the plant. I am very interested in botany and as you can imagine the work environment was a dream come true for me. Because of my interest (amazingly not all boat guides are into agriculture) I asked a lot of questions of the staff while on the extended tour and while working and thought I’d mention a few things you didn’t. I asked about the hydro systems being ‘closed’ and where the spent nutrient water went and was told most were closed and those that were not had drains that collected the spent nute to an area where it was made environmentally friendly (didn’t know how or where but I’m sure greenhouse interns would have, remember I was just a boat boy). I also wanted to know if the nutes were organic and also how propagation was done as most plants in the show aren’t there for all that long. The nutes are chem based (which is why I later asked about the systems being closed) and all the plants in the show are clones (this is despite a neat “tissue culture” mini exhibit which you can see in the last greenhouse in the lab). While I was working there we were told the vegs were mostly given to the rotating restaurant upstairs (Chip & Dale’s Harvest Feast Garden Grill) and that you could order a salad with a mickey cucumber (I always wondered if next door to the land, the Seas fish were sold in their restaurant?) Speaking of fish I noticed you didn’t mention anything about the Aquaponics section on the boat ride. Well its really a fish farm but on the extended tour our guides were stating they were looking into creating a Aquaponic exhibit back in 05 (Some of these fish I believe were sold in the Seas restaurant). The thing at Disney is that everything is for show and I’m not sure how clear the water in an Aquaponic setup would be but it would defiantly showcase sustainability. Its a pity you went in July as Spring time is really when to visit Epcot and I hope you’ll do a follow up sometime. They do TONs of agricultural stuff and its throughout the west side of Epcot (I think west side, or where ever the land is)

    [...] There is a lot to be gained from the research and gardening done at Epcot. After taking the walking tour through the gardens and labs, you quickly learn that there is a lot more to what they do then what the ride shows you. I learned a lot from my experience but learned one major thing – in order for what they do to be useful to me, they would have to share their knowledge, every specific bit of it, in order for me to put it into practice. This is not something the cast members were willing to do.[...]

    I think this is the key to making the Land including Living with the Land Boat Ride better. More specific info given directly to the guests, which can only be done with a little more training for cast members both greenhouse interns and boat cast members. But even if it can be made better, its the best ride in the whole park as far as I’m concerned. SAVE THE EARTH below is from an unofficial WDW site

    [...] A relaxing 13 minute boat ride takes you on an informative journey through a tropical rain forest, an African desert complete with sandstorm, and the windswept plains of a small, turn-of-the-century family farm. Guests experience the struggles of the past and plans for farming in the future including Hydroponics, Aeroponics and Aquaculture. It’s not just about fruits and veggies, fish farms are on display. Since The Land is a Disney restaurant supplier, You could very well be seeing your entree. Wonder where those Mickey shaped cucumbers in your salad came from? This is where they’re grown. [...]

    I noticed on the same site
    [...] During the 9/06 refurbishment process, the boats were equipped with automated narration. [...]
    so I am now wondering if the boat ride has boat captains at ALL ?!?!? I really hope you had a captain as no automated voice can create the magic as well as a genuine cast member

  9. Tussauds Studios / Desi... October 5, 2007 at 6:39 am

    [...] Mouse shaped pumpkins developed at the experimental farming section of the EPCOT center, [...]

  10. Charlene September 22, 2007 at 11:12 am

    heh formed vegetables are not “patented”, as one of the above writers seems to thinks. People have been forming vegetables for decades, if not centuries, the world over.

    The world wasn’t created in 1953, and the United States is not the world.

  11. Tussauds Studios / Desi... September 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    [...] – 15 Anywhere mini golf – 16 Tunnel House  – 17 Disaster machines – 18 Disney Everest 18.2 – 19 Mickey Mouse Sustainable Farming at Disney Epcot 19.1  – 20 Buddhist Hell Theme Park in Vietnam – 21 Bronx Zoo – 22 Cursor Kite – 23  Hello Kitty [...]

  12. cj August 23, 2007 at 10:43 am

    kerry, i love you!

  13. Food shaped like Mickey... August 8, 2007 at 5:09 am

    [...] This is a little too Invasion of the Body Snatchers for my liking, but it’s certainly interesting: vegetables shaped like Mickey Mouse. [...]

  14. dannyman.toldme.com : D... July 30, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    [...] has an informative and lightheartedly disturbing visit with the “Sustainable Agriculture Production and Research Center” at Disney [...]

  15. Shandy July 30, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Rick, interesting! And not at all surprising. I work for a small firm that designs interactive museum exhibits. Disney’s intellectual property thievery is well-known in our tiny industry. They asked us to provide one of our proprietary ideas for the Innoventions pavilion at EPCOT some years ago. I’m afraid we were just too darned busy to help them out. Shucks!

  16. andrea July 30, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    wow
    i guess it started as a good idea but styrofoam
    and genetically altered????
    that doesn’t sound to good….

  17. Rick July 30, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I have read this thread with considerable interest and some amusement given that I invented and patented the vegetable molding process that is driving so much discussion. To begin, Zachary is absolutely incorrect in his understanding of the patent situation. The Vegiforms patent was issued on May 9, 1989, -the US patent number is 4827666 and is of course public record. The lifespan of patents at that time was 17 years, so the Vegiforms patent had full force throughout the 90s and beyond when Disney was merrily molding vegetables. I sold dozens of my patented molds to Disney during the 90s, and even at their request, gave them a proposal to produce Mickey molds. They declined my proposal and began producing molds on their own in defiance of my patent and without paying a penny in royalties or any other consideration or acknowledgement. -Understand, there are no patent police to aid the small inventor, an individual patent holder must bear the cost of protecting, and enforcing his patent. When approached about this matter Disney made no offer of restitution and instead suggested that we take it to court where we would face a very protracted case in Florida courts at enormous expense. Also please be aware that if we won our case, any settlement would be based upon the value of the number of molds that they had used, no punitive damages would likely be levied nor would I be guaranteed restitution for my legal fees. The bottom line is that I was smugly invited to risk enormous sums of money to recover very little. -No patent attorney would touch this case or a contingency fee only. In the time since this encounter with Disney, I have met another product developer who had his light fixture designs borrowed by Disney with similar tactics. -Vegiforms has done fairly well despite Disney’s unethical behavior, and has paid for a vacation or two, -but you have my solemn promise I will never go to Disney Land.

  18. Shandy July 30, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Thanks, Zach! I happen to agree with you, and I’m a Floridian, as well.

    You mentioned the set-aside of land for conservation? It’s not just hundreds of acres. The Disney Wilderness Preserve is actually 12,000, and it’s now controlled by The Nature Conservancy. The theme parks themselves take up 1,100 acres and the additional development about 6,000 more. There are about 10,000 acres remaining of the original purchase, part of which may be added to the conservation area later.

    And a carrot should be “long and skinny”? I hate to tell you this, but there are dozens of types of carrots, and a bunch of them are neither long nor skinny. Nor orange, for that matter. ALL carrots eaten today were genetically bred by humans from a wildflower called Queen Anne’s Lace. So saying there is some “natural” carrot shape that should be honored is painfully ignorant. There is virtually nothing that we eat today that hasn’t been modified–purposefully designed, in fact–by our forebears. Making a Mickey-shaped pumpkin does nothing to alter the genetic nature of the plant and is, in fact, far less intrusive than trying to get those pumpkins to be purple or taste different. I consider myself an environmentalist and I’m all for controls on genetic modification, but honestly, the amount of ignorance and uninformed grandstanding on issues like these makes them that much harder to discuss productively.

  19. Keetsa! Blog - Eco-Frie... July 29, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    [...] the whole article here for all the funky food [...]

  20. Vegetales con forma de ... July 29, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    [...] Vía | Boing boing Más información | Inhabitat [...]

  21. Vegetales con forma de ... July 29, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    [...] Vía | Boing boing Más información | Inhabitat [...]

  22. Tareg July 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I prefer my vegetables just as they are. I don’t believe that we should alter anything natural to the way we would like it to look.

    Just accept it a tomato should be round in shape, and a carrot long and skinny.

    These shapes should be interesting just as they are.

  23. greenlight July 29, 2007 at 10:02 am

    what was done at Epcot was and is innovative. the trick is to now develop it and make it affordable to the general public. so we can feed ourselves instead of depending on corporate farms

  24. Food shaped like Mickey... July 29, 2007 at 5:56 am

    [...] This is a little too Invasion of the Body Snatchers for my liking, but it’s certainly interesting: vegetables shaped like Mickey Mouse. [...]

  25. really?!? July 29, 2007 at 5:48 am

    The basic question is WHY? GM product or not! (Though, thank god it is not.)
    Why should my kids be made to think that a gourd grows in the shape of a mickey mouse? Are all the bigger issues in the world solved that one has to sit and think about how can i fool around with natural shapes and create ‘natural’ micky mouses!!!!

  26. sigh July 28, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Nice to see that this article has spawned the completely erroneous belief that Epcot’s Mickey-shaped vegetables are the result of genetic modification. Read a little closer — it’s no more sophisticated than squeezing Play-Doh through a star-shaped hole.

  27. Tasty Logic » Tas... July 28, 2007 at 3:39 am

    [...] Mickey Mouse Sustainable Farming at Epcot – Inhabitat.com [...]

  28. distant creations &raqu... July 27, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    [...] From inhabitat.com: [...]

  29. Heather July 27, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    THANK you ZACH and MYRA!!!! Could not have said it any better!!!!! Also being from mulitple-generation Floridians, myself and husband, I think Disney has been nothing short of a blessing to the area….

  30. Zach July 27, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    It isn’t that swamps aren’t beautiful. All of nature and it’s varied ecosystems are beautiful in their own ways. The thing is that the property was developed on land that was in no appreciable way unique or deserving of setting aside for conservation. All land is unique in a way, and in an ideal world it could all be preserved, but unless you want to live in the wild so to speak then some land will be developed – be that with housing, offices, retail, or entertainment. Society requires these things to exist, and so places must be developed with them. The best you can do is to avoid destroying rare or endangered things, to conserve as much as possible, and to implement abundant green space and natural habitats amongst developments. Disney has done all of these things.

    I’m not some rabid Disney fan who has to jump to their defense. It is a corporation, what feelings people have toward it does not affect me. What raises my ire is when people are so utterly sanctimonious in regards to things they know little to nothing about. People who live by the CORPORATION=BAD ethos are just as simple minded as racists or religious extremists. They have such an underdeveloped and immature view of the world that they only see black and white where there is gray.

    To summarize – DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. I know this is the internet and you shouldn’t expect much from commenters on any type of forum, but seriously. If you are going to open your mouth, make sure something comes out.

  31. Valerie July 27, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Beauty…..
    as far as the “swamp beauty” goes, we multiple-generation native Floridians do/Did appreciate it’s beauty, habitat and lack of commercialization. Most of us rue the day that Disney set up camp here.

  32. Myra July 27, 2007 at 11:24 am

    People go to WDW to get away from the scary things out in the real world; i.e., we go for fun and relaxation. Seeing Mickey pumpkins is FUN! (How come you people…media of any ilk, and most “commenters”…
    never mention any of the good stuff Disney does? And don’t even try to say they don’t do anything good!) Naysayers always seem to forget that probably half the people in central Florida have Walt Disney to thank for their jobs…whether they work at WDW or some other business that exists because Disney came here. On the other hand, it obviously never occurs to you that most major cities in Florida…no, the entire country…are sprawling all over the place. And Disney has nothing to do with it. As long as population grows, so will the need for land to turn into homes, businesses, etc. And what about what Bob said? WDW IS out in the middle of a swamp, which probably was beautiful, but no one ever saw it. And eventually some suburban developer would have grabbed it and turned it into a much less environmentally friendly housing project than is WDW. There are still acres and acres of undeveloped Disney property to say nothing of all the lakes and well tended green spaces they deliberately cultivate. By the way, don’t you wish your next door neighbor kept his lawn as green as WDW’s. (I apologize for ranting, but the negativity just set me off. I am so sick of the hypocritical complaining about WDW…and I don’t even work there! I just keep going there to spend money! So what? Should someone come and save me from myself? Should I sue the government for not making it illegal for me to be taken advantage of by a big mean corporation?) And surely you could have expanded on the fact that EPCOT produces much of the food they use???? Also, I’ll bet anyone willing to pursue the knowledge could contact the Behind the Seeds tour folks and get some info on how to garden hydroponically. WDW does share information, and recipes. (Again, apologies to all the Carl Hiaasens out there…and thanks for letting me vent.)

  33. Cyberpunk Food: Mickey ... July 27, 2007 at 11:18 am

    [...] The weirdness of genetic engineering increases: Link [...]

  34. Zach July 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I’m no apologist, but some of you people are so quick to jump all over Disney just because of their size it makes my head spin.

    First, the patent nonsense. Vegiforms were patented in the late ’90′s at the earliest. Disney has been using those molds for far longer than that. They did not rip this idea off or trample on some little guys IP.

    Second, prior to the development of Disney World the land it was on was swamps and some pastures. It’s not like they destroyed some great natural resource or treasure. And even then they set aside a huge parcel (not sure of the size, in the hundreds of acres I believe) as a wildlife preserve. They did go back and develop some of this but at least they did mitigation and preserved land in other areas for every acre they developed.

    I just hate the superficial jerks who live in such a black and white world where CORPORATION=BAD. Disney is far from perfect and there is plenty to admonish them about, but in regards to sustainability they have consistently been in the forefront of corporate responsibility – switching to recycled products early, moving to green hotels early, doing land mitigation and preservation, working on wildlife conservation, etc.

    Epcot is certainly a dated, idealistic look at the future. But for a company to risk it all on a theme park built around education, science, and multi-culturalism is unheard of and despite all of its problems (sometimes uninspired attractions, too much corporatism, etc) I am still amazed at what was originally created. It was such a radical shift from anything else that unlike the other parks Disney built, there is nothing else like it in the world.

    Corporations exist to make money, but in 1982 Disney attempted to make the world a better place with a billion dollar theme park when they could have just as easily gone for cheap thrills and mimicking their earlier successes.

  35. esmero » Blog Arc... July 27, 2007 at 10:03 am

    [...] americans although. Voltando à imagem, o post do Boing Boing se referia a um outro post no site http://www.inhabitat.com que relata uma visita ao EPCOT na Disney. EPCOT é uma sigla que significa “Experimental [...]

  36. Michael Mouse July 27, 2007 at 9:35 am

    This is your brain. This is your brain on Disney…

  37. Iris July 27, 2007 at 8:53 am

    hey i was just on the tour this monday! it was my favorite event at epcot. thanks for your take, jill. maybe the research projects are at their beginning stages toward becoming useful agricultural techniques. there’s room for improvements along the way.

  38. Gil July 27, 2007 at 1:10 am

    I was suprised you didn’t mention the nine pound lemon!

  39. erin July 27, 2007 at 12:20 am

    wow… i think your sardonic mindset has you missing the point of the exhibit, almost entirely. though you find it antiquated and unrealistic, most people who take that tour have never heard of any of those growing techniques before. should they be denied that information because they didn’t learn it in the 60s?
    and, let’s just be frank here: it’s disney world; no one expects real ground-breaking research. explaining every ethical/biological implication behind every decision made would be boring and, i promise you, very few VACATIONERS [ahem!] would care.

    ps. zale is right about styrofoam being reusable and recyclable.

  40. LIBERTY BELLES » ... July 27, 2007 at 12:07 am

    [...] Inhabitat, revelations about Epcot’s Living With the Earth sustainable agriculture exhibit prove that the only thing Walt Disney plans to sustain is its image [...]

  41. Mason July 26, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Oh noes! They use styrofoam!!!

    I wonder what your carbon footprint was on your trip to Disney.

    P.S. You know people are dying in Iraq, right? Good work, though.

  42. » And There’... July 26, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    [...] Mickey Mouse Food – Disney genetically modifies food to look like Mickey. [...]

  43. Babs July 26, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    This was hilarious, scary and interesting! Thanks for the read.

  44. Matt Arnold July 26, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    “While EPCOT’s agricultural experiments with hydroponics and IPM were at one time groundbreaking (back in the 1960’s), today the research has been overtaken by the fiscal need to entertain the public.”

    This statement could be misinterpreted to mean that research on hydroponics and IPM during the 60s took place at Epcot Center. Epcot opened in 1983.

    I came here through the BoingBoing.net article and my love of Epcot. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  45. zale July 26, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    While styrofoam is not biodegradable, it IS recyclable.
    I would bet that the pots get reused if they are in good condition and recycled at the end of their usefulness.

  46. Music City Bloggers &ra... July 26, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    [...] I’ve heard of brand identification, but this is, well…scary. [...]

  47. Andrew July 26, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Great writeup. That six year old sounds pretty awesome.

  48. Abigail Doan July 26, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Really (alarmingly) entertaining piece – which begs me to ask as a pregnant mother to be…Must the growing of food, the consumption of food, and the marketing of food increasingly be entertaining or out-of-this-world-fantastic on some level? We obviously see this all the time with children’s breakfast cereals and the cross-over with animated film/tv characters, etc. The Epcot “mickey vegetables” are potentially really only a bridge to something more evil…like those salad bars at McDonalds that just want to become “healthy” Happy Meals promoting the next Disney relsease. It sounds like the six-year old in your piece was truly on to something. Maybe the next generation will protest and finger-point before the adults can be too cutesy with their “yummy” agricultural modifcations.

  49. Ed Centrella July 26, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Isn’t it ironic that an enormous company like Disney that so closely guards their trademark rights would stomp all over a little company’s patent? Just another crass corporate bully throwing their weight around.

    Also, I went to the Vegiforms site and their stuff is so much better looking than that ugly Mickey gourd. Apparently Disney couldn’t steal all of the know how from Vegiforms. -They do real faces with expression.

  50. Bob July 26, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    There is a lot to be gained from the research and gardening done at Epcot. After taking the walking tour through the gardens and labs, you quickly learn that there is a lot more to what they do then what the ride shows you. I learned a lot from my experience but learned one major thing – in order for what they do to be useful to me, they would have to share their knowledge, every specific bit of it, in order for me to put it into practice. This is not something the cast members were willing to do. Disney is still great, and its out in the middle of swamp land, what beauty could you have possibly found there?

  51. Curt Tweddell July 26, 2007 at 11:16 am

    The shaped vegetables are nice unfortunately they stole the (patented) idea from the folks at VegiForms.
    If you’d like to grow your own formed veggies go to http://www.vegiforms.com/

  52. Tyler July 26, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Just as a note, I mourn the replacement of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” every time I hear about Disney. It was disgracefully replaced by “Winnie the Pooh” four years ago. Mr. Toad’s was a truly creative and enjoyable ride, it should be given due credit. That aside, nothing Disney ever does should have the label of sustainability after laying millions of square feet of concrete in the middle of our state. If you have ever visited Disney (or check it out on google earth), you know that it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Development has slowly radiated off the Disney core throughout the years, but essentially it was placed on untouched Florida wilderness. But hey, when the oil reserves are depleted, and Disney is coastal property in 50 years, at least we’ll have cucumber slices that are shaped like Mickey! So sad.

  53. Hmmmmm July 26, 2007 at 8:24 am

    I love your wrtie up on it. Epcot seems almost like watching the Jetsons. An optimistic ideal future thru technology. The Mickey veggies are just plain goofy! :-)

  54. Valerie July 26, 2007 at 5:50 am

    sigh. Now if they could only replace Florida’s beauty that they destroyed :(

  55. Will July 26, 2007 at 5:04 am

    this doesn’t really make up for the unhealthy corporate misdeeds. if anything it adds to the unnerving superficiality of corporate perogatives, everywhere. though the assault made directly on the environment is small disney still adds to a wider set of problems that really encourage such abuse in substanial amounts: taking advantage of the third world – the place and the people

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