People from all over the country are betting the farm -- on Facebook. "FarmVille," a game where people use fake and real dollars to cultivate virtual farms, is becoming a huge success.
Shyann Krumney, 18, has lived on a real farm her whole life. She lives in Buffalo Lake, Minn. where she likes to take her pet sheep for a walk (that is, when she's not busy moving bales of hay.) Krumney says she usually plays "FarmVille" for a few minutes each day.
"I go to school in the morning and everyone's talking about the latest on 'FarmVille,'" she said. "Someone's always complaining they didn't get to adopt the 'ugly ducking' or the 'strawberry cow.'"
The game has grown in popularity quickly, according to Facebook spokesperson Malorie Lucich. "FarmVille" is the most popular application in Facebook history, with more than 60 million active users," Lucich said. Social gaming company Zynga launched "FarmVille" in June -- they say the game has averaged a million new users every week since.
According to Mark Skaggs, the creator of "FarmVille," "if you lined up all the 'FarmVille' users side-by-side, the line would reach from New York to San Francisco three and a half times."
"There's a lot of [business] potential there," he said. "In the midst of this chaotic word, there's a little piece of quiet."
That sense of calm attracted graduate student Kayla Payton to the game. Like many of her classmates, she's hooked on "FarmVille." After a long day at Arizona State University, Payton, 22, sits at her computer, harvesting virtual fields of eggplant from her apartment in Phoenix.
"It's like my little green place," Payton said. Earlier in the semester, before school became too demanding, she said she spent up to an hour a day playing the.
For Payton, it takes her "back to the basics."
"You don't have to worry about deadlines," she said. "You just harvest your crops and do your thing."
And while she loves her farm, she admits that she could probably be doing something more productive.
"It's really almost kind of embarrassing," she said. "People don't want to talk about it, but everyone does it."
"FarmVille" lets players earn virtual "coins," when they harvest their crops. They can then use the coins to buy more crops, livestock or other things for their farms like picket fences, and gazebos. Crops take different amounts of time to ripen or grow enough to be harvested. Not weeks or months as in the real world, but a couple of hours to a couple of days.
A peach tree will set you back 500 coins, while it costs 35 coins to plant a plot of wheat. Farmers can then turn around and sell the wheat they harvest for 115 coins.
Like other virtual world online games like "Second Life," "FarmVille" recently added features where users can use real dollars to purchase "coins" and "'FarmVille' money." So this catchy pastime may turn into a cash-cow for its creators.
While Zynga declined to comment on exactly how much the company made from real cash "FarmVille" sales, it recently used funds from the game to donate nearly $500,000 to a charity enhancing the welfare of children in Haiti, according to a company press release.
Beth Hoffman, 21, a senior at ASU, said she is constantly reminded by her 33-year-old sister, Jennifer Petasnick that she needs to harvest her crops, or take care of her virtual animals.