When you start buying farm toys for the kids, beware: You could be about to slip into your second childhood. Jim Poorman knows all about that. “I clearly remember my first toy tractor, a 1:16 scale John Deere Model 60,” he says.
“Over time, I had several to carpet farm or play with outside on the dirt pile,” Jim recalls. “As I grew older they were all packed away. When my wife, Joanne, and I started our family, we began buying toys for the children.” At about the same time, he began attending farm toy shows. “I started buying additional toys for our children,” he says. “I also started adding to my small assortment of toys from the past that had been stored away. And gradually I became a collector.”
Local shows offered a nice selection of farm toys. But Jim — who lives in Somerset, Ohio — began hearing about bigger shows, like one in Lafayette, Ind. and the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa. “Until you’ve attended those large shows, you really haven’t experienced what farm toy collecting is all about,” he says. “I’ve learned so much by attending those shows. All of that stirred my desire to have unique custom pieces for my collection. It also got me thinking about building a layout.”
The novice farm toy hobbyist learns through experience but often stumbles a few times before seeking help. Jim soon learned about people who could customize “that special piece.” Others provided input on diorama construction. “It’s been a pleasure meeting people from all over the U.S. and Canada involved in farm toy collecting,” he says. “They’re friendly and willing to help with anything you’re trying to do.”
Jim exhibited the winning 1:16 scale diorama at the 2012 National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville. His highly detailed display featured a Massey Ferguson dealer’s inventory reduction sale. After helping a friend with his dioramas at the national show, Jim decided to get involved and built his first diorama in 2010. Eventually, he hit on the idea of a 1:16 scale display and he knew just what he’d put in it. “My farm toy tractor collection focused on Massey Ferguson,” Jim says. “It was a natural to use those tractors and implements for my 2012 diorama.”
Jim wanted the diorama to be realistic, complete with animation. He cut an oval track in the parking lot in front of the dealer showroom. The track allowed operation of a chain-driven Rhino ATV that transported the auctioneer. An auction recording was played as the auctioneer moved along, selling each piece of equipment. “We added a lot of detail throughout the entire layout,” Jim says, “including the dealer showroom and a mechanic’s bay in the service center.” The diorama includes 51 lifelike figures; several are hand-painted.
The most unique gem in Jim’s Massey replica display is a 1:16 scale Massey Ferguson Black 860 combine. The original combine was built to commemorate the 1983 launch of a new line of Massey Ferguson combines. The combine was painted black to signify past company failures and carried a logo that symbolized the phoenix rising from the ashes. Built in Canada for promotional purposes, the one-of-a-kind full-size combine was used for demonstrations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over time it was believed to have been sold to a farmer in the Midwest and then to have been scrapped. Jim decided to add a special version of the Black 860 to his collection. In November 2010, he asked Dan Kiley, Anamosa, Iowa, to customize a Black 860. After Dan completed the project, he made it part of his display at the 2011 National Farm Toy Show. Since then the piece has been on loan to the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, where it remains on display.
At the next year’s National Farm Toy Show, Jim incorporated the Black 860 into his diorama. During the show, a Kansas man stopped by for a look. When he spotted the Black 860, Duane Thompson, Atchison, Kan., pointed and said, “My dad owns that combine.” Duane explained that his father had purchased the combine 12 years earlier and used it regularly on his farm in Kansas.
Growing up on the farm leaves indelible impressions. Jim’s family had a Ferguson Model 30. “I was probably 4 or 5 years old when I drove a tractor for the first time,” Jim recalls. “Most farm kids back then learned to drive at an early age. It helped a kid develop responsibility early in life.
“Back then, our corn was husked by hand and pitched in piles on the ground for later pickup,” he says. “Dad had me drive the old Ferguson with a trailer hitched behind. The men walked alongside as they picked up the husked corn from the piles and pitched the ears into the trailer. Dad helped me turn into the next row when we reached the end of the field. My feet didn’t reach the pedals, so if there was ever a problem, I knew how to turn off the ignition.”
When Jim and his brother were toddlers and their parents were busy during planting and harvest, the boys stayed with their grandmother. “We liked helping her bake pies because she saved leftover dough for us to play with,” he recalls. “The tires on the John Deere 60 made neat tracks in the dough. Grandmother liked the dough with the tread marks so she baked pies with that dough. Eventually the dough built up and hardened between the front tires, but that was resolved when I restored the tractor.”
Jim enjoys turning the clock back on old toys and models. “As I hunt for old farm toys, I like finding a piece with character that may be crusty, dirty, bent or broke that I can turn back into something new and shiny,” he says. “When I’ve completed the restoration, anybody would be pleased to put it on display.”
Jim appreciates today’s highly detailed models. “The finer detailing has made them more acceptable by collectors,” he says. “They’re not just play toys for kids anymore. Fortunately, the builders have made versions suitable for play.” But he worries that shift from toy to collectible may be peeling young people out of the hobby. “At a recent farm toy sale, I noted only one kid there and he was buying older toys,” Jim says. “As the older collectors pass on, there seem to be fewer younger ones replacing them.” FC
For more information:
— Jim Poorman, (740) 404-5115 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Hendricks owns SunShower Acres, Ltd., Bucyrus, Ohio, a dairy cattle consulting business. He is an avid farm toy enthusiast and a freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.