Tennessee farm guys scale down a giant operation.
If you attended the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, the past three years, you might have been among the thousands who visited The American Dream, a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide model farm with amazing detail and craftsmanship.
Call it a work of art, or just call it the biggest darn farm toy display ever. Its creators, Chase Long and Colby Counce, say it is probably the world’s largest model farm. This year’s version represented a 500-head beef operation and 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat on Long Farms. Counce Farms, next door in the model farm, had 15,000 acres of crops including corn, soybeans, and wheat.
Chase and Counce grew up on farms near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where they still live, farm, and work for Russell Counce, Colby’s father, who owns a 5,000-acre grain farm. Work
on the model farm dates back at least 13 years, they figure.
“I was given a toy train when I was five or six years old. It had the usual toy train things. But I didn’t really care about trains. I was interested in farms and farm machines,” Long says.
“So I wondered if I could turn that train display into a farm. I started converting it into farm scenes and putting little farm toys in there. It wasn’t to scale or anything because I was a kid and didn’t know what I was doing. I just did whatever seemed right. I fooled around with that thing and had fun with it all the time,” Long says.
Before long, Colby Counce joined in the fun. What started as a childhood fascination never stopped. As they grew older, the model farm grew bigger and more detailed. It became a 1/64th scale model. Few of the machines and trucks in it are off the shelf. Nearly all are customized and some are even custom built. The grain bins, for example, were made from plastic styrene. Some machines were built from solid aluminum. Corn in the fields is made from 100,000 toothpicks.
“It just kind of grew on its own almost,” Counce says. “We are always thinking about what we can add or change or tweak a little bit. Every time we put it up, it changes a little. If you saw it at a show last year, this year it’s going to be a little different.”
The model farm reflects their interests. In real life, Long, 25, has both beef cattle and grain crops. Counce, 22, concentrates just on grain. They also both enjoy the outdoors. The model farm includes a creek, woodland, white-tailed deer, and a deer stand.
“It really is The American Dream to be able to farm like this. We want that to come out in the model farm. The model farm doesn’t represent our real farms, but more of what might be fun to do sometime, more what our dream farm would be. We never run out of ideas to try,” Counce says.
Show time. For several years, the two displayed the model farm at shows in Tennessee. When they got invited to show it at the National Farm Machinery Show, where 300,000-plus usually attend each year, they were both surprised and elated.
“Being at the Louisville show is better than Disney World to us,” Long says. “It’s the ultimate for people interested in farm machinery. All those people coming by, looking at the model farm and wanting to meet and talk to us is pretty cool. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’re going to keep coming back if they’ll keep having us.”
The week of the Louisville show becomes a good outing for family and friends, as well. The Counce farm Dixie Deere tractor pull team, led by Russell Counce and Jed Pettus, usually competes here. Twice they’ve won the NTPA Grand National Championship.
“Just making the Saturday night finals is a big deal to us,” Russell Counce says. “Having the model farm here with all these people looking at what Chase and Colby have done is just icing on the cake. The whole family enjoys being here with friends.”
Watch people around the model farm, interacting, and it seems lots of people here are friends, new and old.