You can submit your article, report, announcement, ad etc. by mailing to editor@dandavats.com

First ISKCON EU Farm Conference

Friday, 30 May 2008 / Published in Cow protection, Reports / 9,706 views


Clockwise: Smita Krishna Swami, Balabhadra das, Syamasundara das, Gaura Sakti das


Nandi the bull meeting Govardhanlal on tour of Vraja-dhama

Meet the Cowherds At the first ISKCON EU Farm Conference

By Chayadevi

Devotees came from nine countries to attend the first annual ISKCON farm Conference at New Vraja-dhama in Hungary. America, England, Belgium, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, and Hungary were represented. Many of these devotee cowherds and farmers serve their farms in a rural setting distant from a bustling city temple. They perform their service with little recognition and applause, but their reward is in the service itself to the cows and land. Not only is there spiritual reward but there is also the joy that comes from a peaceful and healthy life close to the land and cows.

In the last approximately ten years, there has been a decline in the development of ISKCON farms and in the ISKCON consciousness of the importance of such farms to the spiritual development of ISKCON as a whole. This conference, organized by the ISKCON European Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture, Syamasundara das, was the beginning step to reverse this trend within Europe. In that attempt, it was a success, with the devotees leaving inspired and hopeful for the future.

Balabhadra das, ISKCON Global Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture gave the opening address. He spoke how within our movement, there is a need for a social structure that will provide a haven from the outside world where devotees can live and raise their children peacefully so they too can be Krishna Conscious. Srila Prabhupada envisioned such a social structure within farm life, village life, with the cows and land providing the necessities of life. Our farm communities are therefore very important, as they are the starting point of developing self-sufficient life. “The whole idea is that we are ISKCON, a community to be independent from outside help.” S.P. letter to Satyabhama March 30, 1969 As the world changes with higher gas prices creating higher cost of food and living in general, such farms will be seen more valuable to more people as providing the answers to a more and more difficult life.

The conference was graciously hosted by Gaura Sakti das, president of the New Vraja-dhama farm community in Hungary. At present, New Vraja-dhama is the most advanced European ISKCON farm in the development of self-sufficiency. A part of the conference was touring the New Vraja-dhama operation. From June through October, the community of 120 consumes only fresh produce from the farm, and during the winter months, they are self-sufficient in grains, and potatoes. A proficient 150 square foot root cellar was recently built to provide more facility for winter food storage. Five trained teams of oxen are active and perform most of the farm work. 2000 fruit trees produce a variety of fruits, and eight devotees care for the five acres of vegetables.

The guided tours, given by Gaura Sakti das, were an inspiration because they showed the possibilities for every ISKCON farm. Other farms also gave presentations. Varnasrama das talked about the successful flourmill business that helps support the Czech farm. At the Czech farm, they produce all their own flour from the grains they grow. They also sell the flour and produce cookie prasadam, which they sell and distribute on sankirtan. Haladhara das, from the Cornwell farm project in England, gave a presentation of the Govardhan Whole Food business that helps support their project. Salad boxes, which cost little to produce, are getting a maximum return.

Issues, such as providing for the cowherd and farmer so he can stay on the farm and support his family, were discussed with solutions suggested. Smita Krishna Swami from the Sweden farm described how they provide housing for such devotees. Gaura Sakti das joined in with a description of their housing development and arrangements.

Aside from the practical discussions and information on how to support and operate a self-sufficient Krishna Conscious farm, Sivarama Swami, ISKCON Guru, GBC, and spiritual leader of New Vrajadhama, and Balabhadra das, spoke about the spiritual importance and need for such farm projects. Sivarama Swami stated that to have cow protection one must have cow protectors and the cow protectors must be protected so they can protect the cows. To provide this protection and for cow protection to thrive there is need for the social system of Varnasrama in which cow protection is an integral part. He also stated that to be a cowherd is as important as standing on a corner distributing books.

As explained by Balabhadra das, the entire cycle of preparing the land with the oxen, planting the seed, nuturing the plant that comes, harvesting the fruits of the plant, and then offering it to Radhe Shyam, the residing deities at new Vraja-dhama, is the perfection of devotional life.

Some of the presentations have been recorded at Sivarama Swami’s blog, check the archives for May 20 and 21:

http://www.sivaramaswami.com

For more detailed notes of the conference, please write to Syamasundara prabhu.

syamasundara@pamho.net

15 comments

  1. 0
    Praghosa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    No it is not true.

    In Hungary a certain amount of a persons tax (I think 1%) goes to charities and religions, the individual tax payer can decide which charity/religion that their 1% goes to.

    The devotees have done very well and are fourth in the list after (I think), the Catholics, Prodestants and Jews.

    However those funds are not used to subside the farm, rather they are used for a variety of other preaching projects in Hungary.

    Either way there is little doubt that the Hungarian farm is the most successful ISKCON rural project in Europe, if not the world.

  2. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    The article is very interesting and highlights an important aspect of our Movement. However, I have a question. The author says: “The conference was graciously hosted by Gaura Sakti das, president of the New Vraja-dhama farm community in Hungary. At present, New Vraja-dhama is the most advanced European ISKCON farm in the development of self-sufficiency. ”

    Is it true that the Hungarian farm is largely subsidized by the tax money contributions donated through the Hungarian government? If that is true, this is hardly a case of self-sufficiency.

  3. 0
    kavicandra swami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As the news is dominated by “food crisis”, “oil crisis” and “urban population crisis” we shuld realize the import of Srila Prabhupada desire that we have communities that produce our own food and protect cows. I was enthused to see the article in BTG about the Saranagati project in Canada.

  4. 0
    Balabhadra ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Kavicandra Swami has brought forth a major topic discussed at the conference. We are living in precarious times. Oil, which most of the world is run on is not a renewable resource. Its price keeps rising which affects the food costs since most food is transported to the consumer. Guess what? Consumers (including most devotees) depend upon oil to get food.

    Production of food on our farms is at the forefront of becoming sef-sufficient. Naturally the larger number of people to provide for, the greater the challenge. In a cold climate it is even more difficult to achieve food sufficiency. Canning, drying, root storage, and storage of all of it is necessary for the winter months. A storage unit with 3 seperate chambers, each 150 feet long by 20 feet wide was just built at New Vraja-dhama for this purpose.

    Add to food production, alternative energy sources – working oxen, heating with wood, etc.
    All these will beome more and more important as time progresses. Let all the ISKCON farms show the example. People will then flock to our farms. 25,000 visitors a year visit New Vraja-dhama.

    Chayadevi

  5. 0
    Praghosa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Probably better if Gaura Sakti prabhu answers your question Kulapavana prabhu, but if the farm is subsidized my understanding is that such subsidy would come from book distribution.

    As I say though I am not sure if it is subsidized, so better if Gaura Sakti prabhu comments.

  6. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Thank you, Praghosa prabhu, for clarifying the issue of tax money not being used to maintain the farm.
    If you do not mind me asking, what precisely is the source of income for this project? Where I live some devotees maintain themselves 100% from commercial organic agriculture. I am just curious to know how do the Hungarian farm devotees manage to keep such a nice project going.

  7. 0
    Gaura Sakti das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you for your questions about the maintainace of the farm. Well, the first thing is that the farm is not a farm but a village with 130 full time devotees. The activities are overseen by 7 directors in appr 30 departmants. We are working with such a complex system that is not so easy to understand if we want to compare it to the activities of general ISKCON temples.

    In our situation we don’t have subsidies, we maintain the farm by the result of our services, that can be from tourism, shop, restaurant, art and handicraft products, organic vegetable, grain and fruit production, donations and book distribution. We are working with a system that I would call to be a working economy, rather then a simple income-expense management.

    We receive project oriented donations that we use to develop/build certain projects but after built we maintain it without further donations. Of course there are projects which by nature maintained by donations such like the worship of the deities. If we are not sure that we are able to maintain a certain project we don’t even accept laksmi to develop it. So proper operation and maintenance is our main priority.

    The following may sounds to be shocking to hear but it may be more easy to maintain a project with 100 person then with 10. Why? Because self-sufficiency is actually meaning well working economy not just simply production (of food or whatever). If ISKCON would put emphasis on studying the theory of self-sufficiency and would be brave to implement it again in village communities that then we could see thousands of devotees living on well workig farm communities. It was our intention to help this development by hosting this First European Farm Conference.

    On the other hand we should understand that projects like New Vraja Dhama will never happen by the effort of few farmers who try to survive on a piece of land, however sincere they may be. If we want to manifest somewhere a “workingvillage” then we have to invest a lot.

    If amongst the readers there are some who is interested in the theory of self-sufficiency for them let me advise to read the following book: Aristoteles: Politika. In the first part the author explains what is the theory behind the proper arrangement of self-sufficiency as it was applied in the ancient Greek city-states. (The rest of the book is dealing with the theory of constitutions which may be interesting also for those who has enough patience to study such a complicated text.)

  8. 0
    Madhavananda Das (Orissa) ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

    Excellent answer, and an excellent project.

    During our brief visit last year we were very impressed. As Gaura Sakti Prabhu points out it’s not just a farm. One of the most inspiring things I saw there was how well taken care of are the hundreds of tourists who come every day. They get a tour which includes some small books, a visit to the temple and deities, with explanations by some warm hearted and personal devotees, all culminating in a visit to the first-class temple restaurant.

    Shivarama Maharaja has overseen a project that is a prime example for our society.

    All glories to the devotees there who have worked so hard to make it come true!

    Vaishnava kripa prarthi,
    Madhavananda Das

  9. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Gaura Sakti prabhu,

    You write: “self-sufficiency is actually meaning well working economy not just simply production (of food or whatever)”. I completely agree with you. Yet every economic system is based on production of goods and services. If we produce the goods and services people are willing to purchase, our economic model is viable and sustainable. On top of that it will go a long way towards improving our image with people in general.

    Best of luck with your project. We need more such initiatives in our movement.

    y.s

  10. 0
    Gaura Sakti das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As I see the situation is that ISKCON today is far from any economic model as far application is concerned. It is sad to say that it is even far from successful production since what we even see today that is the collapcing of formerly established farm communities. If you read Syamasundara prabhu’s report you can get a very clear picture about it at least on the European level.

    But something very positive is starting now. We seem to recognise that every devotee is eating something every day (plus we have our our Govinda restaurants). So it could lead to create production of food for them. The way I was using economy it means that first of all we have to create a certain internal market and thus we can ensure the devotee producers that they can relay on us in their selling. So it is true it is best to start with creating an economy around food production. But production is not enough, we as devotees have to become “conscious customers” who consciously chooses a product and support the producer by his choice of buying a certain product. I see it as our religious duty: it is our dharma!

    At the latest European Leadership Meeting Syamasundara prabhu came up with some very significant proposals to help this situation. I will ask him to present it to the devotees. The idea was accepted by the European leaders and it is worth for overall support to be extended to the whole ISKCON community on the global level.

    I don’t want to write the idea now, I will ask Syamasundara prabhu, to explain it.

  11. 0
    syamasundara dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The farm conference hosted in Vrajadhama Hungary was the first of an annual event. The aim of the conference was to bring together the devotees involved with farming related activities so they could share experiences and especially successes. The coming together of those dedicated to rural development, food production, forestry etc would inevitably lead to inspiration by being with others of the same interests and direction. In this regard the conference was a success.
    Unanimously the conference participants expressed their aspirations from the leaders of our society for something that would not cost money. In each case the farm devotees need vocal support from the visionaries of our society, from those who preach at farms and centres and those involved with farm projects. They need to hear again that the farm projects are important and are still a part of the ISKCON mision. They need to hear the word “self Sufficiency or Self Reliance” or words indicating that ISKCON is meant to be working to grow its own food, medicine, clothing and housing. Often the farmers and the rural projects are feeling lonely and forgotten and are not sure if their project is relevant to the modern ISKCON.
    Our leaders and preachers can give this assurance and it will not cost money it only costs some choice words. There isn’t even the need to fabricate anything because the message is loud and clear in Srila Prabhupadas books and words. Our farms need support and free support means by voice one appreciates, talks about, talks up and inspires those involved with farms and encourages those who use food, flowers, timber etc to support the farms by taking those essentials from the farm.
    So this is the first Farm conference in Europe and in discussion with Balabhadra Prabhu the Global Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture there will be other farm conferences in other continents around the world.
    The participants of the conference expressed things like “they did not feel alone anymore – they felt hope – they felt inspired – they went home with new ideas.
    We look forward to an ISKCON where after what seams decades of farm abandonment the farms again become abundant and thriving.
    ys syamasundara dasa (European Minister For Cow Protection and Agriculture)

  12. 0
    dusyanta dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    hare krishna.Just as a matter of infomation from1983-1987 i attended European self-sufficiency meetings at different Iskcon farms in Europe.There were about 15-20 devotees at each meeting.We met at Villa Vrndavana,New Braja Mandala,New Mayapur and Manor.
    From records in my diary from 1983-1989 at the Manor we were totally self -sufficient in flowers for deity worship and ratha yatra and for visitors deity worship.At that time we were spending £310 per week on flowers so the saving was immense.In fact i started a thriving business alongside flower production.Gaura Chandra was looking after the cows at that time and we recorded 16 UK gallons daily for over 5years,another huge saving.I also had 7 beehives which produced enough honey for Balaramas appearance day and we were able to donate 36lbs to Soho street Temple. During those years we produced masses of vegetables,we had a self picking business on Sundays and sold huge quantities to Soho street.I have recorded 700 tomatoe plants,Zuccini Loka,Chard for each season,Sweet Corn,Varieties of Pumpkins and Squash,Lettuce,Yellow Cucumbers,Melons,Coriander Leaves and seeds,All types of Brassicas,Potatoes for 3months,Eggplants,Peppers,Ladies Fingers,Green Beans,Beetroot,Carrots,Wheat Grass.The first of everything was offered to the Deities.We also were able to make flower outfits for the Deities and on Sundays would regularly offer over 1000flowers.
    Thanx to all the devotees who contributed their service through all those years.The Manor never looked so good.We had something like 30 hanging baskets and the whole place was swept daily with an electric sweeper.
    Self -sufficiency is only a mystery if you dont know what you are doing.Just look at all the farmers round the world who produce food for the world,they are not rocket scientists.All we have to do is do it in a Krishna conscious way thats all. Your servant dusyanta dasa.

  13. 0
    cidanandas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hare Krishna!

    Congratulations to the Hungarian Vedic Village,that is inspiring everyone! In Asia,HH Bhakti Raghava Swami is busy promoting such living style in Indonesia,Malaysia,Cambodia and India;it may be easier there,due to recent tragic events of wars or extreme poverty,and labor is cheap. These countries have also the advantage of already knowing such way of living in recent past or even present,as most do not consume meat daily,and are used to cooperating among themselves in villages.For devotees in developed countries, it is just a question of creating cooperatives among yourselves,once you agree to live in such a village.

    However,there is a tendency to imitate the western way of life,with daily intake of animal proteins: a new McDonalds opens every week in China! But most ignore the danger of such diet,consisting of low class meat from USA,and we saw recent riots in South Korea by people rejecting such products,suspected of containing mad cow’s disease.

    Maybe a percentage of profits from distributing books should be put in a special international fund-transparently operated-,in order to promote such projects,and present Iskcon properties to promote such projects,as Srila Prabhupada wished?They will be a showcase for this most important spiritual movement all over the world!After acheiving the establishment of such communities,governments and wealthy benefactors will surely pour funds into such projects.People tend to believe what they see:if we preach self-sufficiency/pure living/cow protection,while going in big 4×4 to supermarkets to buy polluted products and milk from unprotected cows,we won’t be believed!
    The established multinationals do not quite like such projects,as it means less people in their supermarkets and transport industries,so it is a struggle to get permits sometimes,but not impossible task.

    Plse visit http://varnasrama.org [ vedic village-Vrndavan style- projects of Asia]

  14. 0
    jagabandhu dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Please excuse me. Sorry to bother you all. Congratulations on the former success in England as so kindly mentioned by Sripad Dusyanta Prabhu and also to the present success in Hungary!

    If such a conference might also take place in America as well, I think it would be very helpful. Presently there is a strong renewed enthusiasm for self-sufficiency in Alachua (where curiously although they have a nearly 130 acre farm, it is referred to as the Alachua Temple and very little farming is actually done). Possibly, the conference for America might be held here in Alachua, Florida where the weather is so clement that there are four growing seasons within a year.

    I personally volunteer to be yoked to an old-fashioned plow (while the cows cheer me on) to turn all in the beautiful landscaping there into fields that might easily produce food to feed many people, thereby also fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s awesome vision of his temples being able to feed the whole world with Krishna’s help. If we have Faith.

    Humbly,

    Jagabandhu dasa

  15. 0
    cidananda das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I just discovered the remarkable project of HG Astottara das in the Republic of Congo,where,after the conflicts during the 10 past years-4,000,000 killed-,the population were reduced to eat snakes and rats! Now,with the help of the government and private donations,the enthusiastic members of the village are producing tons of vegetables and other foodstuffs.The mentality of the people have so much changed that the previous ennemies are now working together,like brothers.The idealistic community is a new model for Africa,so much into eternal conflicts,famine,diseases,and corrupt politicians.
    It is very inspiring to see how everyone there is cooperating,and giving a helping hand in making such valley in an edenic place,where cows will be protected and oxen will be used for transport and ploughing.Anyone interested in the practice of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions,concerning varnasrama,are welcome there,for helping or learning.

    http://workingvillages.org

Leave a Reply

TOP