The Game of Farming

Would you like to know what it’s like to be a

REAL farmer?


Photo of land girls courtesy of Ministry of Information Photo Division via Wikimedia Commons

Well, here’s a fun way to get the dirt (while still keeping your nails clean):

gift_gab-farming2Waaaay back before video games and virtual reality, a hardscrabble rancher in central Washington State dreamed up a board game (remember those?) that got right to the heart of farming …

“It happened in a hay field just as the sun was coming up in early July 1979,” recalls George Rohrbacher. “The Farming Game really was invented on the seat of a tractor.”

At the time, George and his wife, Ann, were struggling to hold on to their family farm in the throes of a three-year drought. With little left to lose, they literally bet the ranch, mortgaging “everything that wasn’t nailed down” to produce the first edition of the game.


Photo of the Rohrbacher family in 1979 courtesy of

The entire family pitched in from the get-go, assembling parts and pieces of the game at home. Eventually, assembly was turned over to the handicapped at Portland’s Goodwill Industries, and the rest is a magical blend of history and perseverance (a trait required of any good farmer).

Suffice it to say, the Rohrbacher’s gamble paid off, and they won “the game.”

You’re wondering what makes this old-fashioned game so special, aren’t you?

The answer is simple:


Playing The Farming Game is about as close as you can get to working the land without actually diggin’ in.

“About half of this nation’s two million farmers or their spouses work an outside job so they can stay on the farm,” George explains. “They are ‘Weekend Farmers,’ farming early mornings, nights, and weekends, trying to get that next piece of land, a tractor, a harvester, to finally farm big enough to afford to quit that darn job in town and come home and farm full time.”

So, in a nutshell, that’s the object of The Farming Game.


Photo courtesy of

Each player starts the game with 20 acres—10 in hay and 10 in grain. The acreage isn’t profitable enough (at first) to feed a family, so you must also have a part-time job in town. Keep plowing money back into your farm as you circle the board, exploring the possibilities of diversification into fruit and cattle (and weathering whims of “farmer’s fate”), and you might just end up on top of the tractor!


Photo of land girls harvesting flax courtesy of Ministry of Information Photo Division via Wikimedia Commons

The Farming Game has sprouted into a crop of other fun games for all ages that you can order at, and George has even written a lighthearted book chronicling the family’s adventures in farming and gaming called Zen Ranching and the Farming Game.


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