The first year of virtual farming is behind us. When we started out we had €500k of which €200k was a loan on which interest was payable. We had to buy a plot of land and a farmhouse. This is how a Start from Scratch game begins in Farming Simulator 22. That I chose to locate somewhere other than the game’s default location on the Haut-Beyleron map did not really alter the initial stages of the game. The cost of the land, farmhouse and modifications to create the farmyard came to a similar amount to the cost of buying the ‘approved’ starting farmhouse and associated pre-paved area and field.

When you start out afresh in Farming Simulator, you have an initial plan for what you want to achieve in the first game year. It is partly dictated by the state of the field you start with. If it has a crop already growing your initial target will probably be to get a suitable tractor / trailer to move the crop and a combine to harvest it. If, as in the case of Ferme du Vieux Chêne, you get a recently ploughed field then you are immediately into making a key decision – whether to farm sustainably or traditionally because that will seriously impact your subsequent equipment choices. I made this decision a part of the storyline at the beginning. The experience has proved an interesting one. Opting for the direct drill seeding route means I haven’t had to buy a plough or a cultivator – two of the tools I would normally purchase early in the game. It also means that I have been able to get by so far with a small tractor.

From a practical gaming point of view, if you decide to go down the traditional farming route then you should probably disable the precision farming mod because the game will penalise you financially for ploughing, etc. If you opt for going sustainable then you need to check out the mods that are available as the direct drill seeders that come with the game are large expensive tools that would normally be associated with endgame farming rather than when making small beginning steps.

Talking about the decisions made early in the game leads on to why a game that most gamers would view as intrinsically boring, holds so many of us in thrall. In many ways it is about the decisions that have to be made as your farm grows. You start with a plan for the year and possibly a longer term plan too, but you are reliant upon many random factors in the background that can change the circumstances in often subtle ways and force a rethink. That happened in spades during the first year of Ferme du Vieux Chêne and there was nothing subtle about it! – I cannot recall ever seeing the surrounding farms on a map with so many fields in a similar state of cultivation. I discussed the situation in both the storyline and a gaming note. It meant I could not rely on the contracts market to give sufficient income for my farm to grow. I was forced to look for other ways to earn money and that brought a couple of future projects into the immediate. I hadn’t planned Chickens or Market Gardening for the first year but circumstances forced my plans to change.

Being able to get enough money together to buy the second field was critical – without it the move into Market Gardening would not have been possible. Remember that the jobs market was still very quiet at the time – it played a part in my decision to sow grass in that field too. I could see that buying a larger tractor was beyond our reach and grass is worked with small machines. With luck I can get 3 harvests of Hay or Silage from that field every year. As for the greenhouses – that’s €21k well spent. They will have paid for themselves by the end of next year after which they will be producing a pure profit.

The Chickens were initially a financial burden and I was glad of the farm subsidy and income from the solar energy each month to carry us through that difficult period. Both these items are mods and worth using as a way of generating some income without resorting to blatant cheats – Subsidies are a part of real world farming life in Europe. Now the combination of egg production and the sale of adult birds is bringing a steady income and we’re currently well set for chicken feed from our Barley crop.

Farming Simulator is a game that flies in the face of the ‘instant gratification society’ – nothing comes easy and there are no short cuts. Even if you play on the New Farmer level where you have all the tools you need to get the job done, you cannot avoid the daily grind of working a field for often more than an hour in-game time. Ploughing a lone furrow is a part of the life. Again, people may wonder why we do it. One thing that Farming Simulator gives through the periods of grinding monotony is a moment of pause – a time when our thoughts can be our own without the interference of others. Those thoughts may be about the next steps in the game or they could be about the wider cosmos – the time in the tractor trundling up and down the field allows for that internalisation between the turnarounds at the finish of each row. Looking for inner peace? – Try Farming Simulator and you may find it there!

One game year ends – another begins on Ferme du Vieux Chêne. In the coming twelve months I hope to buy another field and to get a larger tractor and trailer. If possible I’d love to get our own harvester too. For those things to happen I need the jobs market to hold up for a while! Time to get back to work and sow our overwinter crop 🙂

ps – In case you’re wondering why we’ve had so many Ferme du Vieux Chêne posts in such a short time, it’s because I know there are 2 more map DLC’s coming in Truck Simulator with associated events and because I want to write up about Way of the Hunter. It was time to put the first year to bed!

With the grass sown in our new field we pressed on with the plan to start market gardening. We asked Jacques if he built greenhouses for other farms. “Non.. But I prepare the ground and I assemble some pre-made assembly kits in the past.” I had a chat with Claude over coffee – “Where can we get greenhouses to assemble?” “Pop into the farmers market next time you pass by – we have brochures for garden sheds, greenhouses and all sorts… You should find something in those.” “Aren’t they for peoples gardens?” I asked. “Some are, but we have commercial ones too.” he said.

I visited a couple of days later and scanned through the brochures. There were actually a selection of commercial greenhouses. Many were assembled on site by the manufacturers but some were also available to build yourself. I rang Jacques to ask if he could prepare our proposed greenhouse plot in the middle 2 weeks of March. There was some shuffling of papers in the background and I thought some chin scratching too before he came back and said “Oui! I can prepare the ground. Send me a plan of the area you require.” “Would you be able to assemble a large greenhouse too?” More chin scratching… Oui, Have you ordered it? If you have, then send me the diagrams.” I promised that I’d do that – without telling him I hadn’t ordered it yet! I went back to the brochures and rang up the company supplying the greenhouse Mark and I had chosen. They had it in stock and, yes they could deliver at the beginning of the third week of March. They promised to email us the floor plan and the diagrams for assembly. We paid with the farm credit card – another dent in the bank balance.

Jacques arrived at the farm on the Monday – clutching the floor plan that he’d printed out. “Where am I building this greenhouse?” he asked looking around the yard and scratching his head. “Not here, we have an area further up the valley.” and I guided him up to our new field and showed him the grassland alongside the track beside the field. “Is that area flat enough for this to be done?” I asked. “This is fine!” Jacques said, positively beaming, “The last time we were building into a hillside for a barn – that was a bad time.” I told him the greenhouse should be arriving the following Monday. “We’ll be ready by then.” He said. I left him and his Son unloading a small digger.

There was another issue that we had to attend to. How to get water to our greenhouse when it was built. There was no supply to the land up there and a phone call to the water company produced a prohibitively expensive answer for piping and storage on site. The local plumber said he could provide a standpipe at the farmhouse. That was much cheaper but then we’d still have to transport the water up to the greenhouse. Mark also pointed out the charges for water use – It was something I hadn’t thought about but I should have – “Oh my God! It’s going to cost us a fortune in water rates!” That cast a shadow over the viability of market gardening. Should I cancel the greenhouse and pay Jacques off? Mark shook his head – “We can make this work, it’ll just take a bit longer.” He said and he suggested I go and look at water tankers as we would need one if we went for a standpipe in the yard. I guess it was my turn to feel a little despondent, so I took up his suggestion and drove down to Armand Moteurs in the tractor.

Jean had tankers in stock – some way too large for our needs and most of them of the wrong type – we didn’t need a slurry tank for example! As we kicked stones around the yard and wandered amidst the machinery I talked about our project and the water cost issue. Jean looked a bit perplexed “Why is there an issue? Why not take water straight out of the river for free? It’s what everybody else does!” He explained that there were a few areas where the riverbank was accessible for the collection of water – the nearest such point for our farm was by the marina in town. That was a gamechanger – the water would only cost what it took in fuel to collect it! And the cost of a trailer was not that different to the quote from the water company to pipe and store it on site. I left Jean’s shop with a nice modern plastic tanker fitted with all the necessary pieces to siphon water from rivers or lakes!

The greenhouse arrived and Jacques assembled it in time for planting during the last week of March. We decided to plant it with Tomatoes. Here’s our greenhouse…


…with the first Tomato plants growing inside. Initially I had to do three runs to collect water for the greenhouse’s storage system…


…6000l of water is a lot of weight for our tractor and it was really chugging up the steeper hills. We got the job done but we may need to think about a larger tractor soon. By the end of the first week of April we had our first load of Tomatoes…


…and, in a symbolic gesture, I drove them down to the farmers market immediately in the Sidekick…


Other news around the farm – the grass in the field by the greenhouse is growing well…


…and our Barley crop now has healthy ears and looks on course for a good harvest in June…


…Not sure what we’re going to harvest it with though! We’ll probably have to hire a combine and harvesting head. Fortunately, the silo is just across the yard so we won’t need a trailer! This first crop has chicken feed written all over it! Talking of Chickens, our first home-hatched batch have come of age so I sold 8 of our oldest birds back to the animal dealer…


…meaning that we now had 92 laying birds and another 50 that will mature in 6 months. Things are looking up on the Chicken front 🙂

Much of this work was done before the recent Trucking event and this post brings you up to date on progress at Ferme du Vieux Chêne. I hope to get some more work on the farm done over the next week or so now things have quietened down – although I am currently trying out a new hunting game which I will report on soon.

The greenhouses produce Tomatoes at an alarming rate – it has been suggested that greenhouses are goldmines in some of the games reviews. Given how hard it is to make a farm pay when playing on the hardest settings I’ll view that as a big bonus. I expect to expand the market gardening with a second large greenhouse growing Lettuce in the future and possibly a small greenhouse might be added to the farm near the house to grow Strawberries 🙂

Winter, when it came, was quiet. The last contract jobs ceased just before Christmas and we settled into a period of getting-by. The Chickens were costing us money at this point because we had to feed them and the eggs weren’t covering the costs. We were glad of the municipal grant to keep our heads above water in this period. The good news was that the chickens were now producing young…


…and as long as the flock grew , we’d get increased egg production and be able to sell some birds too. According to Jacques, the builder, the pen could hold up to 360 birds, so we had the space to grow.

Between feeding the chickens and taking eggs to the farmers market, there wasn’t a lot to do. It snowed on Christmas Eve and we built snowmen in the yard…


With so much time on our hands I took the opportunity to visit some of our close neighbours. They were politely friendly – wariness just below the surface of their demeanour. It seems that visiting is not a common thing around here. On one visit to the farmers market, I bumped into Jean Cuvier and we sat down to drink a coffee together. We’ve done a couple of jobs for Jean and he also sold us a shed and trailer back in August, so we were not complete strangers. I asked about the lack of contract work out there. “Most of us have either got next summer’s crop in the ground or we’ve already ploughed the field ready for sowing in the spring.” he said, adding.. “It’s a little unusual this year though with so many fields already planted or ready to plant. Usually there is still some ploughing to do in the winter.”

We spoke about farming methods too. “You are being watched.” he joked, then making his point more seriously, “Everyone wants to see how your sustainable farming turns out – if you’re getting good yields without doing it the traditional way you may convert some of us.” “There won’t be a rush though – most of the smaller farmers would need new seeding equipment and we need to understand how you are handling the weeds.” “So far we haven’t seen any in our Barley.” I said, “Maybe in the spring?”

I guess sooner or later we’d broach personal subjects and Jean asked the obvious “I assume your partner is not just a business associate, yes?” “That’s right.” I answered, wondering if this was going to be an issue. Monsieur Cuvier looked quite happy and with a twinkle in his eye said “A couple of our younger farmers will be pleased!” I was non-plussed at that so he explained. “Have you not met Amelie and Rebecca? Our two local farming beauties. If you are gay then there will be less competition for the other young farmers to, let’s say, amalgamate farms?” He burst out laughing and I laughed with him. With that we parted company.

Much of January was spent planning. We needed to expand beyond a single field. I had driven around much of the valley on the dry days and I came back with a short term plan. “The field up by the Grain Elevator.” I said, showing it to Mark on the map. “It comes with a small parcel of land between the access track and the road…


…”I think we could buy that and sow it with Grass. It would give us regular income.” Mark tugged his ear and asked the obvious – “Won’t we have to buy a lot of equipment?” “We’ll have to see how things go with the money but we can probably get some of the things we need and hire the rest to start with.” “We already have a seeder and roller, so we can start by sowing in March.” Mark gave a non-committal nod and I decided to press on with the suggestion. I showed him a photo of the adjacent land…


…”I think we can build on this area – I’m thinking Greenhouses to produce salad crops?” That got his attention! “Oh! Now that sounds like a good idea!”

With agreement reached, we approached the farmers cooperative to see if the field was for sale and were able to agree a price that was affordable. In late February we took ownership and I applied lime to prepare the field. Come March, and some good weather, I was able to sow the grass…


…and follow up with the roller. A visit to Jean Armand for some maintenance resulted in a lucky find in the second-hand department – a windrower which is one of the implements we will need for our grass harvesting…


…Now we wait for the grass to grow and we carry on selling eggs.

In the course of the chat with Jean Cuvier, we talked about the reason for no contracts. Here’s the map of the field status at the end of December…


…and I think that illustrates the point – only two fields potentially needed ploughing or cultivating at that point. I have also found that when playing the game at this high level of difficulty, the jobs appear and disappear really quickly and the best chance you have to grab them is at first light. It adds an interesting level to the gameplay!