Toy Farmer

August 2006
Reprinted from The Drummer, Buffalo, Minn.
By Karen Laven

Karen Laven is a veteran newspaper fea-
ture writer and book author whose award-
winning poetry. short fiction and humor
essays have appeared in publications across
the country. She recently moved from
Minnesota to Burlington. Ky.. with her hus-
band and two sons.

Harold Erlandson
Farm Toy Collector and Builder


Memories can be evoked in a variety of ways. For example, a remarkable scaled-down slice of daily life holds a bit of memory-inducing magic for Harold Erlandson—and for others who visit his intricate farm village display.

The resident from Corcoran Township, Minn., started collecting toy tractors in the I 970s. He farmed for 30 years before becoming a surveyor for NSF for another 30 years.

The collector and craftsman found that those small metal tractors conjured up the past. For there were many times he sat atop a Twin City or Moline tractor and worked his land.


His collecting pace heated up once the tractor companies started merging. Erlandson was on a mission to nab the tractors with those original names, and he accomplished that—plus amassing a nice collection of those vivid-green John Deere models, as well.

Erlandson arranged them up in a display and deduced that it would make things more interesting if he added other amenities to his collection.

"It sort of took on a life of its own," he admitted with a grin.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before little people. horses, a variety of critters, wagons and other items started to find their way into his burgeoning collection.

As the years passed. Erlandson’s collection grew. it now totals over several hundred pieces. but he can’t possibly display them all.

Erlandson, whose first wife died, has been married to Ellen for a dozen years. Ellen highly encourages the continuation of his hobby, in spite of his bouts with several brain tumors and the advancement of years.

"Yes, she is my biggest Supporter’, he shared with a wide smile.

Things have slowed down in the manner he showcases the display. however. For many years. the trailer, packed with collectibles, followed in the wake of the couples truck to local threshing shows.

Once there, Erlandson would unload the items and painstakingly set up his farming scenes. It tool three hours to set up at these shows and three more to properly put them away.

Most recently, he has opted to set up the collection at home, in his garage. This still is not an easy task: the trailer hitch they’re on runs about 20 feet by 12 feet, and placing everything just so takes much time and some agility too.

He has to be on the trailer on his knees to set up the middle part of the display. said Ellen.

Taking it down can take several weeks, since each piece of equipment must be placed within its original box. It is a painstaking procedure that Erlandson tackles by himself, and the same thing goes for the set-up.

"He does it all himself," said Ellen.

Erlandson has taken to mixing the design up a bit each year. switching things around, fiddling with this or that.The result is that people who have seen it multiple times believe that they are seeing something new and that the collection has grown.

Although he claims he has ceased adding to his collection, he did admit to purchasing a few things at the annual National Farm Toy Show held in Dyersville, Iowa, awhile back.

One could spend hours taking in all of the little extras that Erlandson has sprinkled throughout the display: from the pigeons on the barn and silo, to the deer and bunnies frolicking in the cornfield—not to mention the carts filled with a variety of crops.

There is also a nifty conglomeration of people. plus the various cars, buses and other vehicles. After taking a gander at the pesky traveling salesman set to knock on the farmer’s front door, you can’t deny that Erlandson has hit the nail on the head.

The toy replicas of the equipment that Erlandson worked with while growing up hold the most meaning to this tall, genteel man with a sly sense of humor.

"Tractors mean something to me," said Erlandson, who appreciates having scale models of "some of the machinery that we had at home on the farm."