When I was a kid I had a collection of Britains tractors that would rival Ryan Tubridy’s Late Late Toy Show studio.
Every Christmas, birthday or special occasion growing up, my older brother and I would eagerly add to our collection of model tractors and machinery. Between the two of us we amassed a fleet of toy John Deeres, Masseys, New Hollands, ploughs, combines and slurry spreaders that would fill entire rooms.
Our poor mother was forever tripping over miniature balers, ploughs and slurry spreaders as we spent hours ploughing the sitting room carpet, baling hay in the hall or spreading slurry across the kitchen floor. She was happy once it kept us quiet. You name the job; we had the machine for it.
Christmas time usually brought a particularly fruitful bounty as the fleet was modernised each year and older models cast aside.
Like many a child around the country, our cunning plan was to ask Santy for a couple of the latest tractors and then ask our parents to throw in a “surprise” baler or plough to hitch up to them.
After all, what good is a tractor if it isn’t put to work earning its keep? Fantastic memories, and the fact that we were lucky enough to have parents who provided for us so well is not lost on me.
Machinery lovers come in all shapes, ages and size; it is not something that you simply lose after childhood. With that in mind I decided to take a look at some Christmas gift ideas that might be suitable for the machinery nut in your family this holiday season.
Earlier this year Britains teamed up with Irish manufacturer Keenan to launch an exciting new Keenan MechFiber 365 die cast replica model mixer wagon.
With nearly 100 years in experience, the collection is constantly refreshed to offer a range of 1:32 replica models. Britains appeals to children aged three years plus for farm roleplay but also to collectors due to the accuracy and high detail of each replica.
Britains worked closely with Keenan to develop the MechFiber365 die cast replica model, ensuring it appeals to consumers for its accuracy. It’s priced at €26.99. A quick look through their website takes me back to my childhood again, with the selection of detailed tractor models available being fantastic.
All of the major brands are catered for. While they aren’t the cheapest, they are generally hardy and built to last.
Paris in Spring
If you really want to push the boat out, why not combine a trip to Paris with a hearty dose of machinery for the heavy metal lover in your life? The huge international machinery exhibition known as SIMA 2019 takes place over a week from February 24-28 2019 in Paris, giving time to explore the city as well as the SIMA show itself.
The best plan to access this huge show, which features everything from livestock to machinery, is fly into Charles De Gaulle in Paris. From there you can either get a taxi which will take approximately ten minutes or alternatively take the RER B (to Paris) and get off at the first stop, known as “Parc des Expositions”.
Tickets to SIMA cost €30 if ordered online in advance of the show or €40 at the door. Aer Lingus currently have flights from Cork to Paris return for the week in question from €83 per person but book as soon as possible as these prices are sure to rise quickly.
While the Britains Heritage range may appeal to a ’70s or ’80s child, the next generation may want more than just pushing a tractor along the floor. Fear not, for there is a video game called Farming Simulator that is driving thousands of farming fans barmy.
The latest incarnation, Farming Simulator 2019, has over 300 vehicles and tools to use from including all the leading tractor brands. John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Valtra, Krone and Deutz-Fahr are all in there.
It’s up to you as the operator how to specialise as you develop and expand your farm from one of three unique starting situations. Begin with no property but plenty of money to build the farm of your dreams, or go for a more noble playstyle of a small starting farm with limited resources.
The choice is yours, along with which crops to grow, which animals to tend to, and which missions to attempt. Farming Simulator 2019 is available from some stockists for Xbox 360 and PS3 from €30, and for Xbox One and PS4 from €40.
Kids are inevitably drawn to machinery and need to be taught to respect its inherent danger from an early age. The AgriKids website highlights farm safety through illustrated children’s books. Tales from Riverside Farm — The Red Tractor is the third in a book series, and it focuses on tractor safety.
The series follows Sarah and Tom. In this book, Tom climbs into the tractor. With so many buttons and levers, he doesn’t know which one to push first. The series hero, Mr Brambles, must come to the rescue.
These educational books make the farm safety message fun. This book and the previous releases are available on the AgriKids website for €6.99 each. Readers can currently get all three titles in the Tales from Riverside Farm series and a DayGlo Beanie for €24.99.
Another option for kids for under a tenner is Tractor Travels, the newest book in the Farmer Christmas series. Farmer Christmas visits farms around the globe on Christmas Eve, delivering presents with his trusty tractor and trailer.
Fun and educational, this book costs €10 and is written by Catherine Baddeley, who lives on the family farm with her husband and two young boys.
Catherine, who was inspired to write by her own childhood growing up in rural England, is passionate about getting children to read and promoting the importance of education in teaching children about the countryside, farming and food production.
Brand merchandise is a big money game for machinery companies now and kids are being targeted from as young as toddler age (a Massey Ferguson baby bib will set you back €7.50) in a bid to encourage brand loyalty.
If Mammy or Daddy runs a John Deere or Fendt tractor on the farm, chances are they will want to kit their kids out in Deere or Fendt merchandise. It all makes for great marketing for the machinery manufacturers who rake it in at this time of year.
Take a walk into any modern tractor dealership premises and there will be a dedicated area for branding and merchandise showing everything from overalls to hats, mugs to t-shirts and caps to PJs.
By way of example, Fendt are just one of many manufacturers cashing in on this. There are new Fendt branded fashion T-shirts on the Shop Fendt website costing between €20 and €35.
The whole family is targeted. They have created fashion lines for men, women and children that could rival any leading fashion brand. And it’s not all for men. A ladies handbag is available for €65, a necklace pendent for €65, or ‘Feel the Power of Fendt’ kids’ pyjamas for €28. An adult male set of Massey Ferguson overalls will set you back around €60.
All the other big tractors brands have similar offerings and a quick internet search will take you to your brand of choice for the New Holland or John Deere lover in your house.
FTMTA Show Tickets
The FTMTA Farm Machinery Show 2019 will take place at Punchestown Racecourse near Naas, Co Kildare next February 7, 8 and 9. This is the mecca for any machinery lover in your life as it provides unrivalled access to the very latest in machinery launches.
Everything from tractors, combines, sprayers, slurry spreading equipment, silage harvesting machinery and tillage kit will be on show. The event is renowned for being accessible in Naas and the best part for many is that it is held under a roof, so is not weather dependent.
The show runs for three days as above and tickets would definitely be a good stocking filler idea for farmers or contractors who are serious about their machinery, or indeed for younger punters who want to see the latest kit on the market.
According to the FMTA special online ticket offers are priced at €20 each for adults, €10 for juveniles and €10 for seniors (65+). Online tickets for the Show officially went on sale last week on its website and are sure to be a welcome Christmas gift for the machinery enthusiast given that it will take place just six weeks into the New Year.
Irish-built scale models
For those who want something Irish made on the model front and are willing to pay a little more for a custom build machine that might be close to the heart, look no further than Ciarán Dunne of Perfect-32 Farm Models.
Talented Ciarán recently created a 1:32 scale model of Irish manufacturers, Armer Salmon’s twin row belt-lift beet harvester. Like all of the Armer Salmon harvesters, the twin row machine was named after an animal — in this case a beaver, the Armer Salmon Beaver model.
To create a perfect replica, albeit in 1:32 scale, Ciarán spent hundreds of hours on the project. The result is incredible and the level of detail amazing. Just like the full size version, the beet tank tips to unload into a trailer.
The lifting rails and ploughs, raise and lower in and out of work. The hydraulic draw bar moves to line up the lifting gear in the beet drill. The yellow covers can be removed to display the detail underneath.
Ciarán can custom-build most machines to match a customer’s own full sized version if desired. Just supply him with photographs of the detailing/changes required and he’ll happily do what’s possible. Find Ciarán Dunne at www.perfect-32.com.
Another popular gift for Christmas 2018 is a new release DVD called Agri is our Culture from the extremely successful Grassmen. Videos of contractors and farmers at work have become something of a phenomenon in recent years, and Grassmen are now the market leaders.
Their Facebook page, with almost 185,000 ‘likes’, confirms their popularity. The introduction to the DVD, which costs around €22, is enough to get any self-respecting machinery fan salivating at the mouth: “Leap years, Olympic Games and the World Cup.
"Each of these things only happen once every four years. A lot can change in this time period, and since filming Westbound & Down in 2014, the same can be said for Grassmen and that got us thinking about the men first seen in that DVD. Armed with a new truck and a Demo 630 Krone, the team wanted to call back and revisit Killen Bros and McConaghy contracts to see how things have changed for them.”
Quote of the DVD has to go to Bob “the Gaffer” McConachy who wisely points out that “no machine’s perfect.” The DVD also introduces viewers to one of Northern Ireland’s largest agricultural contractors, Wallace Contracts, and speaks with Glynn during the busy maize season. Hard work and dedication to the customer is the key message coming from all the contractors featured in this DVD.