This is farming. Get in touch with your inner child. When it’s cold and snowy outside, it’s “carpet farming season” inside. “Carpet farming” is a term to describe pretend play that uses scale-model toys to imitate real-life farming.
City and country youngsters alike can find common ground in exploring this rural way of life that’s so important to our state. Whether a child lives on a South Dakota farm here in the heartland or in the heart of a big city like Sioux Falls, carpet farming is not just for farm kids.
WHEN WORK IS PLAY & PLAY IS WORK
To encourage a child’s imagination, a toy tractor is all it takes. Put one in a child’s hands and you won’t have to wait long for the “farming” to begin. Once engaged, kids can spend hours playing on their knees or sprawled on stomachs working on their own farms. Often, they'll add in sound effects of some kind too!
Just as in real-life farming, a tractor is an important initial investment. But what makes it even more useful (and fun!) is having something to hook up behind it, such as a wagon, or farm implements like a planter. In the spring, a tractor and planter work together to plant seeds like corn in rows across the fields.
The other prime piece of farm equipment needed is a combine for harvesting crops. The header shown above is used to harvest rows of corn. When the combine's bin is full, it needs to be unloaded into large grain wagons or semi tractor-trailers that will then be hauled to a nearby grain elevator or ethanol plant.
When it comes to carpet farming, the color of the farm equipment may not matter to the child in charge. However, for many farm kids, the brand — and predominant color — likely depends on dad’s or grandpa’s brand loyalty. John Deere green and Case IH red are arguably the most popular, although there are yellow, blue and other shades too.
JUST ADD ANIMALS
A farm or ranch wouldn't be complete without some animals. Whether it’s a friendly farm dog, barn cats, pen of pigs or pasture of cows, kids love to help raise animals of all kinds. Popular choices for carpet farms include chickens, horses, pigs, cows, sheep and goats.
There’s an old saying by Robert Frost that “good fences make good neighbors.” Fencing is certainly necessary to create pens to contain the animals. Add a barn to keep them protected from any (indoor) blizzards.
EQUIPMENT TO EXPAND
Expanding the farm just takes more equipment, and maybe a few more acres of land…also known as a little more floor space or a table. Advanced carpet-farm operators often have machine sheds to house their equipment and add several out-buildings like a shop, barn, bin and silo.
While there are official farm-like play rugs or mats available for sale online, your child’s imagination works just fine on any surface — hardwood, laminate, tile, rugs, carpet in varying piles and colors or even random leftover carpet remnants. That said, seasoned carpet farmers know the best carpet allows the toy equipment to “leave tracks” so it looks more like what happens in a real field.
SHOPPING FOR A SCALED-DOWN FARM
The 1:64 scale toys are the most-popular size for carpet farming because they're the perfect size for small hands and take up the least amount of space. Larger versions have a greater level of detail and moving parts that older kids will appreciate.
In addition to selling the full-size versions, most ag equipment dealerships also offer a decent selection of scale-model replicas. You can also buy farm toys at many major retail stores or online. Some would say the best way is to find an actual toy store or exhibit to purchase from a collector or dealer. One such option from nearby Le Mars, Iowa, was recently featured in a KELOLAND story. We will be highlighting Albert Schulz and his special store (shown below) in an upcoming Thisisfarming blog.
FIELDS OF DREAMS
Many of today’s farmers and ranchers operating in South Dakota grew up carpet farming as a youngster. Inspired by childhood imaginative play, they turned dreams of driving tractors and combines into real-life ag careers.
Because ag is the leading economic contributor in South Dakota, it makes sense that we should encourage children of all ages to understand and support the ag industry in our state. Carpet farming in the winter is a fun way for all of us to explore our child-like curiosity and learn a little about South Dakota ag in the process.
BEYOND CARPET FARMING: GROW IT & STOCKYARDS
The next step for further exploring ag would be to explore farming on a life-size, life-like scale. Fortunately, our very own Sioux Falls offers a pair of amazing agriculture-based experiences for all ages. If you haven't visited, you need to check it out yet this winter.
Co-sponsored by South Dakota Corn, the Grow It! exhibit on the third floor of the Kirby Science Discovery Center of the Washington Pavilion has more than 3,000 square feet of farm-related displays. These new interactive experiences include a life-like tractor cab you can sit in and play-operate the controls to get a feel for the full-size versions found on farms. Learn about major South Dakota crops such as corn and soybeans in the Crop Lab and explore what happens underground in the soil by crawling through tunnels.
The Stockyards Ag Experience Plaza and Barn at Falls Park is open on weekends through March. It features the historical story of this influential ag complex from 1917 until its closure in 2009. A Farm to Table exhibit educates and entertains everyone in the family about the path of food production. Get a feel for how ag impacts all our daily lives whether you live in the city or on a farm. In South Dakota, agriculture provides a rich history, impressive science, unique culture and significant economic influence.