SHELBY, Mont. – Imagine if thousands of people came to your farm, bought a Big Bud tractor, seed cart and drill, set it up and began seeding your farm fields in north central Montana?
That may seem a little odd, but it actually happens on a mini scale every day of the year.
The Welker Farms happen to be blessed to be part of a worldwide farming simulation video game series developed by Giants Software.
“The Giant Software video game series contains many farms based on American and European environments and played by millions around the world,” said Bob Welker, who farms with his sons, Nick and Scott.
Other software developers may design farms (called modding), and these new farms can be played into the Farming Simulator game umbrella. “Mappers Paradise, a modding group, contacted Nick and asked if they could use our farm,” Bob said. “They had had numerous request from gamers to run Big Bud Tractors on a farm which uses them.”
The Welkers have three Big Bud tractors, known as the largest farm tractors in the world, and are proud of the hard work they’ve put into renovating and maintaining each of them.
“In January of 2018, Nick sent them our farm field maps, farm building dimensions, and our local CHS grain terminal, along with a farm implement dealership,” Bob said.
Mappers Paradise released the Welker Farms Inc., map June 2018 for the FS17 game.
Last fall, Giants Software released their new addition, FS19, so Welker Farms was re-modded to fit the new software requirements.
“The new map is out now, and we’re having a lot of fun playing our farm on the new map,” said Nick, who previewed the FS19 map on one of their recent YouTube channel videos.
Most every detail in the game can be found life-size on Welker Farms, including their logo.
The new map can be located at https://www.farming-simulator.com/mod.php?lang=en&country=it&mod_id=108130.
The game map is a surprisingly real replica of Welker Farms.
Open it up and here are the Welkers’ blue-painted shops with tools and work spaces inside, grain bins, a chicken coop, their farm homes, the Big Sky Equipment store where one can ‘purchase’ a Big Bud tractor, other farm machines to ‘buy,’ a granary that is now used for storage, and the ‘Big Sky’ farm fields with the bluffs in the distance, detailed to size.
“I have not played the game yet, but I’m amazed how realistic the FS17 and FS19 maps are,” Bob said. “Many gamers say our farm is their favorite farm to play.”
Meanwhile, on the real Welker Farms, Bob, Scott and Nick have been regularly scouting fields.
“The peas are looking really good,” said Nick, pulling out a yellow pea and finding there were seven peas in that pod.
A few patches in the pea fields have some plants with yellowing, probably from chemical damage.
Recently, some grain buyers from Japan visited their farm fields, and were pleased with what they saw.
“Most of our wheat goes overseas, so we’re happy to show them around our fields,” Scott said.
Bob, Scott and Nick took the grain buyers out to their wheat fields, where they showed them the winter and spring wheat fields. They pulled off a couple of the wheat heads, showed them the kernels inside, and talked about their crop.
That was not their only visitors this summer.
“We have also had fans of our YouTube channel and fans of the Farm Simulator Game stop by. They came from Oregon, Minnesota, and states all the way down to Texas to visit our farm,” Bob said.
Meanwhile, the Welkers have been watching the skies and praying to receive more rain in early July.
“We had only received very light rain showers, totally .22 inches of rain in July, but thankfully, we got another shot of rain, .25 inches, on Saturday (July 20),” Bob said.
Bob has been electronically keeping track of the farm’s weather for the last 30 plus years.
“Historically, we should be receiving around 2.7 inches in June, and this June, we had 1.4 inches.”
In preparing for harvest, Bob and Scott recently worked on the grain deck, to ensure it was in working order.
The grain deck is a drive-over flat belt conveyor, which moves the grain from a trailer to the auger, and then to the bin.
“It simplifies unloading trailers as you just drive over and unload,” Bob said.
That will help make their harvest more efficient.
In addition, Scott and Nick added aeration tubes to a few bins. They brought out some perforated metal tubes and connected them together from one side of the bin to the other. Attaching a fan to the outside of the bin, heat from the newly-harvested grain will be forced up and out of the top of the bin.
Bob said the winter wheat will probably be “an average or a little above average in yield (37 plus bushels per acre), and the spring wheat will be around 25 bushels/acre, due to possible light test weight.”
“But I have been surprised before,” he added.
Their peas will be harvested first, in a couple of weeks, and will vary from 10 to 20 bushels per acre.