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!