By Marlee Jackson
Joy lights up John Paul Scott’s face as he carefully harvests imaginary soybeans on the family room floor before augering them into a grain cart — all under the glow of a Christmas tree.
The 2-year-old is part of a veritable army of collectors enamored with toy tractors. He follows in the bootsteps of his father, Adam, and grandfather, Todd, both Cullman County farmers and avid toy tractor enthusiasts.
“John Paul’s three first words were Daddy, Mama and tractor,” said the toddler’s mother, Kelsey. “Anytime we’ve been out to the field, we come home, and he immediately gets his toys and does what they did. Whatever Dad and Pawpaw Todd do, that’s what he’s obsessed with.”
It’s a green-and-yellow-tinged story Mark Hogan hears often. During his seven years managing TriGreen Equipment’s Cullman store, he’s picked up on a pattern. Customers across ages flood the John Deere dealership from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve searching for the perfect gift.
The proof is in the purchases. TriGreen’s Cullman branch makes a third of all toy tractor sales in November and December. A quarter are sold in December alone.
“At Christmas, parents and grandparents aren’t looking for smaller items,” Hogan said. “They want the bigger, newer toys.”
Take the Big Farm R4023 Sprayer. It’s 1/16 the size of an actual rig and allows kids to unfold the boom, fill the tank with water and “spray crops.”
Other petite offerings range from hay balers (small-scale bales included) and flatbed trailers to tractors with front loaders.
There’s the perennial-favorite pedal tractor, too, that’s popular beyond Christmas. Hogan said the tyke-sized tractors often earn high bids during silent and live auctions benefiting nonprofit organizations.
They’re also passed down to the next generation. Back in the Goldridge community outside Cullman, John Paul wheels around on the pedal tractor his father, now 29, received on his first birthday.
The Scotts continue adding to the hundreds-strong collection patriarch Todd began decades ago. John Paul’s first collectible was John Deere’s special 4020, a 1/16-scale die-cast tractor featuring yellow-and-white bunting and “Happy Birthday” lettering.
The collection will grow this Christmas as John Paul unwraps a to-be-determined toy. (A battery-powered tractor is on the short list.)
TriGreen’s Ryan Miles will likely help Adam and Kelsey select the surprise. Miles is the Cullman parts manager and stocks the shelves, display tables and store floor with gifts for all ages and price ranges. That includes books, hats, bikes and pocketknives, in addition to smaller Replica Play and larger Big Farm toys. There’s the higher-value Prestige Collection, too.
Those options draw collectors like Gerald Crafts. The Limestone County landscape professional and farmer started his collection a decade ago, though its roots reach deeper.
“One of my favorite memories as a kid was going in a local produce stand and seeing the toy tractors lined up on the shelf. It was like Christmas each visit,” said Crafts, 59, whose collection has nearly 100 tractors across makes and models. “I just love anything green with John Deere on it.”
That’s a sentiment many customers share, Hogan said.
“Everybody has hobbies, and people literally love John Deere,” he said. “It’s a passion for a lot of people.”