Scratch-Cast: Scratch-Built Farm Toys

Business partners Gary Van Hove and Brian Schmidt create scratch-built farm toys at Scratch Cast.

| February 2008

Twenty years ago at a farm toy show, Gary Van Hove sold a scratch-built irrigation system to a boy. Now a man, the buyer recently returned to the show for a special reason: He wanted his son to meet Gary - and he wanted to buy one of Gary's toys for the boy.

"It's really unique to have a little boy buy stuff from you, watch him grow up, not see him for a while and then have him come to a show with his son or daughter, and say, 'Remember me?'" Gary says. "Sometimes I have to think back a long ways. Sometimes there's even three generations involved."

Today Gary - who lives in Edgerton, Minn. - works in partnership with one of those boys he influenced. Brian Schmidt, now 34, spotted Gary's scratch-built implements at a toy show more than a decade ago. That contact spurred him to make small toys of his own.

Partners in scratch-built toys

The two men arrived at their current avocation through different paths. Gary began scratch-building toys in the 1980s after he and his son, Chad, discovered the expense of collecting farm toys. "Chad always loved to tear things apart, and we saw how these toys were built," Gary says. "So Chad and I scratch-built a 1/64-scale 4-row stock chopper as a way to offset costs. We built 13 of them, and set up to sell them in the parking lot outside the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, in 1984." Ten minutes later, they sold out.

After that, they built a snow blower and anything else that was different, fun and appealed to the market. "We built whatever people asked for, or what we liked," Gary says. "That's when I first realized I'd found something I could do and enjoy." They named the business C&G Toys.

Brian, on the other hand, had the hankering to make implements ever since he was a kid. "The Ertl company pretty much built only tractors, and didn't have much for equipment," he explains. "So I started making my own implements out of cardboard and tape."