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Published May 31, 2009, 12:00 AM

Swift: Facebook farming growing on me

I was the worst farmer’s kid ever.

By: Tammy Swift, INFORUM

I was the worst farmer’s kid ever.

I whined whenever I had to pick rocks or feed chickens. I feigned diphtheria so I could stay inside and watch “Days of Our Lives” instead of chase chickens.

I can still see my dad shake his head in resignation as he heard me grinding the gears on his new farm truck or watched me back into a newly fixed fence.

So I cannot quite figure out my new obsession.

It’s called Farm Town.

Farm Town is a virtual farming game – one of many addictive games offered via the ultimate social-networking-site-devoted-to-reminiscing-with your-third-grade-piano-recital-partner-while-ignoring-the-family-in-your-own-home, Facebook.

Unlike other Facebook games such as Mafia Wars – which require at least a modicum of strategy – Farm Town is childishly simple. In fact, judging by the cuteness of its bobble-headed avatars and the chubby, Fisher-Price proportions of its farm animals, it might be intended for the 15-and-under crowd.

And yet I suspect most of the people playing it are a lot closer to a Daryl Hannah demographic than Hannah Montana’s age group.

Why? Unlike the real game of life, Farm Town’s rules are as simple as its goals are clear. Maybe that’s its appeal. In Farm Town, all you need to do is dig in the virtual dirt. Buy seed. Raise crops. Head to the marketplace – run by a courteous, bibs-wearing avatar named Tom – and hire other apple-cheeked Farm Towners to harvest your crop. Sell crop to amass adorable farm animals, fences, a farmhouse or – ultimate evidence of your farming prowess – a glorious red barn.

This is where Farm Town’s similarity to real farming ends. Everyone involved is youthful and cheerful. In this perpetually sun-kissed place, coconut trees, wheat and coffee grow equally well together. The hired folk from the marketplace never complain about their wages or work conditions. And, although tornadoes occasionally scatter a few leaves around your farm, they never devastate your crops or leave your family hungry.

It is farming as envisioned by Kelly Ripa and Strawberry Shortcake.

I’ve tried to imagine what my dad, with his cynical farmer’s heart, would think of Farm Town and its band of productive pixies.

I could hear it now. “Why’s there a pub?” he’d ask. “Who has time to socialize when you’re working from 6 a.m. until 11 at night? Since when do palm trees grow in the corn belt? Isn’t there any CRP? And why’s that farmer smiling? He should be worrying about how he’s going to get the tractor fixed, vaccinate the herd and sweet-talk the banker all by the end of the week.”

Yeah, Dad’s game probably wouldn’t be quite so popular.

Welcome to Pessimist Town.

Pick up your half-empty glass at the door.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or