Whenever she works remotely from Disneyland, Highland Park writer Jessica Ceballos y Campbell starts her mornings at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor before the crowds rush in around lunchtime. After clocking out, she spends her afternoons roaming the theme park, observing and taking notes of all the happy happenings. Ceballos y Campbell’s self-appointed writing residency will one day translate into Happiest Place On Earth, a poetry project centered on a Disneyland visit with her mother in 1984 while in foster care.
But in August, Ceballos y Campbell’s watchful eye led her to take notice of Tomorrowland in a way she hadn’t before. “Is that mint?” she asked herself. “Why is there a farm in Tomorrowland?”
The writer also noticed a kale bunch, and her curiosity only grew from there. Ceballos y Campbell discovered avocados, oranges, spinach, basil, chile peppers, garlic and parsley.
She began researching online only to find a handful of write-ups dedicated to Tomorrowland’s often-overlooked “agrifuture” concept, which was meant to display the use of free space to grow food and feed the people. Sure, a sign along the Disneyland Railroad reads “agrifuture” and depicts a robot watering plants, but with all the sensory distraction in Tomorrowland, it’s all-too-easy to miss the orchard for the trees.
Though she’s leery of the parsley, given its proximity to the diesel fumes, a not-so-futuristic fuel, chugging out of Autopia, Ceballos y Campbell did rinse off a mint leaf from elsewhere and tried it. “I’ve picked them in front of cast members,” she says. “Nobody seems to mind.” She’s not entirely sure if all the crops are just as edible—and can’t quite seem to get a straight answer on that question.
Her agrifuture revelation may factor into a side project but can just as easily be woven into the narrative of Happiest Place On Earth, which she hopes to finish by year’s end.
“It’s all tied together,” says Ceballos y Campbell. “With the vegetation, it really opened up a whole new perspective for me and something else to bring to the work.”