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By: The Villages Daily Sun | Apr 18, 2020

Growing Friends

Founded in November 2018, the Farmers Social brings farmers and agribusiness workers together through monthly social gatherings. Now, they’re planning their first group field trips.

No tractor, plow or shovel is required to join the Farmers Social.

But retired farmers and agribusiness workers are welcome, especially those who want to meet others with shared experiences.

The Farmers Social, a club devoted to bringing together farmers who live in The Villages, is now in its second year.

Club founder and leader Bob Mast thought of the idea of a club for farmers when he recalled the close relationships he had with other farmers during his time raising dairy cows near the Finger Lakes region in New York.

As the club begins developing a stable core of active members, Mast aims to offer group activities, such as agriculture-related field trips, that will keep people interested.

For now, the main draw of the group is the socializing, he said. He described the people, their shared backgrounds and interest in agriculture as “very interesting.”

“Our last social consisted of open conversation which lasted for over two hours,” said Mast, of the Village of Pinellas.

The open conversation and chance to meet farmers from other parts of the country was what drew Ron Bock to the club.

He was a farmer and agriculture educator who worked with international students at the University of Minnesota. He has an interest in how different farming practices are in other places.

“Agriculture is quite different all over the world, so we like to share any expertise we have and how we do things,” said Bock, of the Village of Fenney.

The Farmers Social primarily functioned as a social group in its first year, sometimes with guest speakers discussing tri-county agriculture.

Mast brought in a handful of key figures like Jennifer Waxman, of The Villages Grown, and Lake Panasoffkee beekeeper Scott Irving as speakers.

This year, there’s a focus on organizing group outings. Organizing activities to bring retired farmers together can sometimes be challenging to Mast.

That’s because farmers, by nature of their occupation, are a “very independent breed.”

“They make cats look like a herd animal,” he said jokingly.

However, some events have caught members’ attention. Club member Jasper Womach said several members plan to attend the Kumquat Festival this Saturday in Dade City. Kumquats, a type of citrus fruit known for its distinctive sweet and sour taste, are one of Dade City’s most prized crops.

Mast also is gauging interest in whether members want to attend the Florida State Fair in Tampa. The fair runs from Feb. 6 to 17.

The Farmers Social meets at 6 p.m. every fourth Saturday at Lake Miona Recreation Center, 1526 Buena Vista Blvd.The next meeting is this Saturday. For more information, contact Mast at