Ah, the farm. Birthplace of seeds. Nursery to wheat. School for crops. Cow… graduation? It’s here that I have decided to plant myself. Not literally, of course – Mother Nature deserves better than to have me buried in her face. No, I’m confining my new life as a farmhand to Farming Simulator 19, despite having a very poor grasp on what a modern farm actually is or does.
When I think about farms I picture rolling hills and big breakfasts. I think of squeezing milk from a cow’s udder right into the mouth of a grateful hound. I think clucking chickens and the big sun baby from the Teletubbies because I got bored of thinking about farms. If I owned a real-life farm, it’d just be me strolling around and pointing to all the land I own and laughing really loudly, and occasionally rounding up my sheep so I can stroke them. There’s no clear financial gain to be had out of any of this. This is the incorrect way to run a farm.
Farming Simulator 19 aims to teach you the ideal way. Farms are not leisure centres. They’re battlegrounds for colourful machines that have more in common with Transformers than tractors. They’re monuments to humanity’s hubris. They’re businesses with hens in them. And it’s here that I’ll grapple with the question that has plagued us for millennia: what do farmers actually do?
Hour 1: choosing my outfit
I start by making my earth-worker. With his loud pink shirt and delicately gelled hair, he’s the archetypal farmer – I think – a man who could deftly navigate one of those annoying one-in-one-out metal turnstiles you see in the countryside. I’m surprised by the sheer number of hat options. There’s a lot! And all of them bear official manufacturer logos. Hats are clearly a big deal in the farming community. At least, until one of them invents a machine to block out the sun. And, even then, hats might just be more convenient.
Next I choose my farm from two options. The first is Ravenport, a farm so American I’ve actually called it Eagle Base USA in my head canon. Felsbrunn is the second, and with its nondescript castle and left-hand driving, it’s very clearly somewhere in Europe. You only need to have seen Europe on the telly to know that. America or Europe? That’s all I have to go on. It’s a good job location and climate isn’t an important factor when it comes to farming or I’d be screwed. I go for Ravenport because it feels more Hollywood and, in my opinion, farming could do with a bit more glamour.
Hour 2: getting my bearings
I awake in the middle of a field. Is this normal for farmers? I thought they slept in beds? Anyway, I bring up the map screen to get my bearings and see everything you’d usually associate with a farm. There’s the spinnery, the animal dealer, the biogas plant, and of course, the lime station. Wait, I don’t recognise any of these things. I didn’t get my bearings at all! In actual fact, I lost some of my bearings, and now I’m questioning the very concept of a farm.
With my head spinning like a spinnery, I head to the animal dealer, because animals have never steered me wrong before. Apart from that one donkey. Don’t ask. This place, I quickly learn, deals in animals. A comfortingly literal application of the business’s name. I scroll down the menu and see mottled pigs, brown cows, and best of all, horses as black as night. I must have the horse. I’m willing to trade all my vegetables for it – a plan that’s soon foiled as, annoyingly, vegetables are not currency like they are in Skyrim. They only want money. That’s fine, though. I picked ‘new farmer’ mode so I begin the game with a cool $100,000. I don’t, however, have the one thing people with money truly want: a horse pen. My next mission is to get a horse pen.
Hour 3: stop everything because I want a pony
Pony riding is new to Farming Simulator 19. That’s right, you can finally ride beautiful steeds. This game puts the ‘culture’ in ‘agriculture’. You can keep up to 16 neigh-sayers and raise their fitness level by riding them around before selling them on for profit.
After trading with the animal dealer I visit the shop to buy my horse a home. Travel is instantaneous, which makes everything a lot easier, and your avatar can sprint infinitely too – probably due to that healthy farmer’s diet of meat and dairy.
As I select the small horse paddock, my eyes are drawn to the shopkeeper’s other wares: a decorative sandcastle, a big grain bag, a shed (officially licensed by Easy Shed). And then there are the vehicles. Oh my. We’re talking the Ropa Maus 5, which I’m told is an exquisite beet manipulator, and trucks with names like ‘Man’ and ‘Hulk’. We’re talking none other than the Grimme Varitron 470 Platinum Terra Trac, which does potatoes. I need it. But costing several million dollars I better rethink my strategy. And that strategy is to stop thinking about ever owning one. Unless…
Hour 4: how to game capitalism
You can take out a small loan of $5,000 on the finance menu screen. Better still, if you continue to click the loan button you have an easy source of income, no matter if each loan is more financially irresponsible than the previous one. The only problem? It would take about 40 seconds to generate the funds needed for my fleet of machines. Who has that kind of time?
I exit ‘new farmer’ mode and load up ‘farm manager’ mode. This starts me with the lumpiest of lump sums. Problem solved. I now have enough money to buy a large horse paddock, and with it, a horse to trot around it. I celebrate by taking out more loans.
She’s a beauty. The game names your horse automatically but you can change it whenever you want. This majestic stallion is called Quiver. Coincidentally, that’s what I want all my farming rivals to do when they see me approach. I saddle up and saunter around the paddock before leaping the gate and galloping over all my crops. It’s a genius move. I am a genius. I have loads of money, a fancy horse, and crippling debt that I can keep putting off. Farming is easy.
Farming Simulator 19 is available right now if you fancy turning your hand to some pro-agriculture. Best of luck with the horses and loans.