ISKCON European Farm Conference 2008

20th and 21st May 2008

New Vrajadhama – Krishna Valley (near samagyvamos 25km south of fonyod/lake Balaton), Hungary

Attendees: There were a total of 32 attendees of the conference with participants from nine countries including America, England, Belgium, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Hungary. The participants were involved with farm direction and management, rural community development, cow protection, farming, vegetable growing

Sivarama Maharaja – GBC, Euro GBC of Hungary and director of New Vrajadhama Farm project Hungary, Smita Krishna Maharaja – Almviksgaard farm community Sweden, Balabhadra Dasa – ISKCON Global minister of Cow Protection and Agriculture, America, Chayadevi dasi (wife of Balabhadra dasa) – ISKCON co Global minister of Cow Protection and Agriculture, Syamasundara – ISKCON European Minister of Cow Protection and Agriculture, Gaurasakti – Director of New Vrajadhama Hungary, Bhakta Sabastion Becher – Germany, Jay – Cornwall smallholding England, Premadhatta – Cow carer Czech, Lokamaharaja dasa – Prague, Gauraparusa – Bhaktivedanta Manor farm supervisor england, Juraj – Ox training new ekacakra slovakia, Mukunda madhava – cow protection and vegetables ekacakra Slovakia, Astasaki – wife of govindanandana new vrajadhama Hungary, Govindanandana head of goshalla new vrajadhama Hungary, Haladhara – Vegetables Cornwall smallholding England, Dhirasanta – Director of cornwall smallholding England, Simhagaura – cook new santapura Poland, Govardhanalal – cow protection etc New santapura Poland, Tomash – farm wellwisher Czech, Radhavallabha – education Czech, Madhumangala – Temple commander Czech farm, Punyapancha – translation for Czech devotees, Wenda Shehata – Gosadan East Sussex England, Katrina – Milking cows and cow nurse Bhaktivedanta Manor England, Param muki? -Wife of varnasrama Czech farm, Varnasrama- Farm director Czech farm, Bhaktapranadha dasa – Radhadesh, Partha – Parkland maintenance New Vrajadhama Hungary, ? – Handicarafts New Vrajadhama Hungary, Radhakanta – Leader of Agriculture New Vrajadhama Hungary, Sundaragopal – Vegetables New Vrajadhama Hungary, Pushpa Gopal – Wife of Radhakanta New Vrajadhama Hungary

Aspirations from meeting: Chance to support each other, Chance to learn from all, To cooperate with farm, Teach farm project ideal, Inspiration, Improvement, Check into cow protection, networking will push forward cow protection

Balabhadra opening address notes

It was mentioned that Srila Prabhupada was sorry that he had not completed Varnasrama and wanted to show how to live off the land. The farms are an extremely important element as well as, deities and children. We are the servant of these. We have a responsibility as vaisyas for feeding the rest of the body. Farms have started and closed.

Hope we can share with each other. Hard work comes food, from this there is relationships and thus we will experience the bhakti experience. Need to develop economic polices to enable devotees to stay on the farm and train other people. Farm is a different way of making devotees by raising children. We need an infrastructure where children can be attracted to the farms and be apprentices. A place where children can grow up and be able to perceive a future in Service on the farms. The responsibility is on our shoulders. Srila Prabhupada informed us of the four requirements; food; shelter; clothing; medicine.

New Vrajadham is a spiritual oasis and a place visited by 25,000 people each year. It is like an umbrella that gives shelter from the material world. A place to get closer to God Consciousness, a Krishna Conscious lifestyle.

Cannot separate brahminical culture and cow protection. In the SB 8.24.5 it says without cow protection brahminical culture cannot be maintained. If there is no brahminical culture then society cannot be maintained. Lord Krishna appeared 5000 years ago in a family of cow herders. Krishna purposefully appeared as a cow herd boy to show how to care for the cows and calves.

Natural wealth of the cow herders is grains and dairy products and agricultural products. Can you eat nuts and bolts? Paper currency is worthless. No food you starve to death. Farms are very important.

We should not look back but now we should look forward.

Cow Protection means lifetime protection. Using the bulls is a loving exchange between animals and man. It is the dharma of the bull to produce food grain.

Gangotri was savagely murdered but this has led to huge preaching opportunities showing the importance of Krishna Consciousness cow care. By dealing with the government we can change things.

When cow and bull where being harmed in the pages of SB this was described as a test for Maharaja Pariksit to see if he was a qualified leader. We (audience) have taken this position. We have to set a high standard. Every cow should be given full protection. Srila Prabhupada wanted to show an example of cow protection

Ajnata sukrit where-in one buys milk, offers the milk and benefit the cows is used as an excuse for not developing cow protection in the world

Goshallas should set standard for cow protection for whole world

Gasoline going up. Everything going up in price, fuel, food, mortgage homes. Ongoing process of decline. Farmers gradually going out of business

We need to set an example with working bulls. Other farmers will follow our example.

European Report by Syamasundara.

This can be seen in full on the Euro GBC Website. Cow Protection report to the ELM sep 2007. The power point presentation is also on the dandavats website. ISKCON European farms in a declining mode overall with a couple thriving some uncertain and the rest precarious, in decline or already stopping with farming.

  • Disaster unfolding or looming within farming projects
  • Self sufficiency and farming relegated to history
  • Preaching about the importance of the farm has not been prioritised
  • Sense of starting again. How have we come to this after 30 years
  • Our practiced social structure does not withstand leadership defection
  • Asking impossible things of farm devotees. No money, no support, no housing, no future
  • Dependant on new pool of volunteers, current system does not support families making it a career
  • Cows stopped being bred or herds expanded and Cow protection being given up by allowing national herds to die off
  • Oxen not wanted and thus few working
  • Farm production (where done) not supported by farms or other centres
  • Farm products only for the farm and not the rest of the projects
  • Farm assets sold for short term maintenance
  • Farm land not being increased but sold off piece by piece

Challenge

  • Insufficient vocal support of leadership
    • Not sure if farm projects are important
    • Not enough regular visits by GBC and other leaders
    • Little preaching on the importance of the farm

Proposal

  • Leaders take every opportunity to glorify the farm projects and the endeavours for self sufficiency
  • Leaders visit the farms more regularly
  • Leaders meet with the farming devotees, encourage them and support them
  • Insufficient persons to care for the cows and the land
  • Expectation that farm devotees will be volunteers or independently financed
  • Where will farming devotees live
  • A lifestyle for somebody else
  • Provide key farm workers with a living
  • Pay the real price and find donor support
  • Two persons at least for milking, ox work and cover
  • Finances are difficult to find
  • Farms need a lot of capital and running costs
  • Food items cheaply available in market
  • Live in society of 9% spent on food using farming system that works with 70%
  • Farms made national projects for fund raising
  • Find 100+ members of congregation to donate 20 to 30 euros per month through their bank
  • Focused monthly donor raising for next three years at large gatherings, mail etc
  • Find an independent trustee for each farm
  • Milk and farm products valued at real price by ISKCON projects
  • If the farm has it we don’t want it
  • The food from the land has soil on it
  • Somebody else has eaten a bit already
  • It looks different this time than last
  • It takes more time to prepare it for the pot
  • I can get it cheaper from the supermarket

Proposal

  • Buy it from the farm if it is available
  • Buy it at all cost (maybe a bit more each year though)
  • Tolerate (no, enjoy) the soil
  • Tolerate the bites (its actually edible food)
  • Give more time to its preparation (It’s for Krishna)

Challenge

  • I want to work on the farm but where do I live
  • Most projects have no spare housing
  • Most projects can build but don’t have capital
  • Don’t sell homes or land to devotees or others
  • Build to rent
  • Tied homes. Here is your work, Here is your home, Here is your income
  • Lease OK
  • Build all that can be built

Briefly a five- point action plan was presented to turn round the decline

  1. Make farms and rural development fashionable within ISKCON
  2. Make farms family friendly. Suitable places for family men and ladies to live and settle
  3. Support by utilisation. All ISKCON related projects support produce from land at all costs and considerations by buying and using at full price of production
  4. Find funding for Cow protection from own ex-residents and congregation
  5. Increasing amount of homes on communities. Need scheme to increase homes without loss to projects or ISKCON

Housing presentation.

  1. Almviksgaard Community Sweden. Smita-krishna Maharaja.
    1. Homes owned by individuals but land owned by farm.
    2. Cannot sell to others.
    3. Have permission for 27 homes and we have built 50% already.
    4. Houses must be sold to devotees. Follow 4 regs.
    5. Houses can be taken over by children.
    6. Contract not tested and may not be legally binding. Based on trust of community.
    7. Each member of community pays 100 euro membership to maintain the community projects including the deity.
    8. Temple run by committee. Voted in annually. Village model
  2. Hungarian farm community. Gaurasakti dasa Hungary
    1. Based on clear legal arrangement
    2. House dwellers invest money to community and do not actually buy their homes. When they leave the investment will be returned to them. About money and not about house.
    3. First five years investment is returned as given. After 5 years the investment will increase by the rate of inflation
    4. Have already done 10 transfers this way
    5. No land can be sold. Everything owned by Radhe shyam.
    6. Re-bought all homes that had previously been sold to the devotees.
    7. (Two-storey houses cost 40,000 euros)

Cornwall Smallholding presentation.
Dhirasanta dasa

The Farm has been in existence since 2003. The farm is rented and thus they could not have their own cows. They like to use weed-suppressing fabrics and thus reduce man-hours for weeding. This also means less earth disturbance

They have run preserve workshops and have received grants from the Government for this.

They run a small grain mill from an exercise cycle. They prefer to use freshly ground grain from their own small mill.

They have committed themselves not to buy from the supermarkets and prefer to be as self reliant as possible.

Haladhara dasa

There is a growing small business called Govardhan whole food business. This is the beginning but there is a lot of potential.

They sell products at a market stall twice a month and at a number of local farm shops, green grocers, delicatessen and restaurants

One specific product that has a high premium is the growing and selling of salad boxes. He chose a product that could get maximum return for minimal product:

  1. The packaging is made from potato starch but they look like plastic. The labels or other packaging is made from re-cycled paper
  2. The salad is a mixture of
    1. Red Mustard, Green in the snow, Mizuna, Rocket, Rainbow chard, winter purslane.
  3. The crop and income can be found all year round
  4. Crops grown outside and in polytunnels
  5. Sale to shops is £1 per box (shops sell at £1.59) and to the customer at £1.50
  6. Each content of the box weighs 60grammes
  7. They are currently selling 100 boxes a week. The aim is to sell 300 boxes a week
  8. The packaging costs £0.20 and thus there is £0.80 income from sales to shops.
  9. Delivery takes 4 hours per week to deliver 100
  10. It takes 1hr to pack 20 boxes.
  11. Currently using 100m2 for this product

New Vrajadhama overview. Gaurasakti dasa. We belong to our community, cultural, spiritual and environment

Preaching.

  1. Visitors.
    1. Does more preaching than any other project in Hungary. They receive 25,000 visitors each year paying 6 euro per person. To serve these guests requires 200 to 300 public programmes which includes philosophy, bhajan and dancing.
    2. Miracle of lifestyle. People love it. Visit to farm offers most overall experience. Preaching as it is
  2. Agricultural preaching.
    1. How we live with nature. Show how to manage by loving environment
    2. Demonstrates another way on a practical level. It is good and is giving a solution
    3. Global warming is going on. Environment is being destroyed. 1% of all animals are disappearing each year. At this rate they will all be gone with say 70 years.

To politicians

  1. The farm project is greatly appreciated by politicians

Training centre

  1. Eco householders
  2. How to organise lifestyle
  3. Farming
  4. Water management
  5. Waste management
  6. Householders growing own
  7. Universities are already committing students to spend one month on the farm in the summer. It is possible that there will be up to 40 such students

Expansion and new project

  1. The farm is committed to expanding the land holding more and more. They are buying 10 hectares each year.
  2. Should be 100’s of such farms
  3. Installation of 400m well
  4. Starting of selling farm bottled water
  5. Building of 7 more homes
  6. Nursery for children
  7. New guest home
  8. Holy ghatts around estate
  9. New road to temple

European wide initiative for grants

Agricultural subsidies are given for projects that are local and sustainable

Grants can be got for European wide projects rather than just national projects.

Protecting Cows discussion. Syamasundara dasa

  1. Report on Gangotri was given. Of importance is the work with defra (UK Government department – Department of Environment, Farming and Rural affairs) and the draft protocol on what to do with cows on hindu temple farms. This protocol will give about 95% safety to sick or old cows on our farms. The protocol does not change animal welfare law and neither does it take away the risk of euthanasia in its current position. The Gangotri task force are committed to extend the security of our cows as far as possible.
  2. Medical attention. It is clear that all cows in ISKCON goshallas should be given the best attention and must work with their local sympathetic vets. There should be no presumptions of knowing more than the local vet. At all times the medical prescriptions of the local vet must be followed. To neglect this can put our cows in a precarious position with the legal obligation of euthanasia for animals that are suffering. By following medical guidance the risk is minimized as far as possible.
  3. European initiative to get exemption in law is required. Team of devotees identified to try and work on this initiative. Gaurasakti, wenda and haladhara offered to play a role in this. It was mentioned that Gauri dasa would be a very important addition to this team.
  4. GS mentioned they are exploring permission to have an animal cemetery at the New Vrajadhama farm. They could also bury cows there.
  5. GS mentioned need for statement/sentence describing the concept of religious care of animal husbandry without commercial purpose. After this step will be what to do with animals in that category

Small goshallas presentation based on salaried personnel – Syamasundara dasa

	Part one-

Simhacalam-Germany chosen as model All personnel would be salaried according to at least local minimum wage of country. It is understood that Germany does not have a minimum wage and therefore we will use the figures for Belgium. Hourly payment will be 8 euro plus 1 euro to govt = 9 euro per hour Model is based on impregnating one cow per year. Thus herd total would be about 15 cows/oxen. (Based on average life of 15 yrs – including calf mortality, accidents and natural deaths) Consideration was that each cow would give milk for three years after her calf (it is understood that many cows far exceed that time). Using Bhaktivedanta Manor experience we will assume 8,400 litres per calf per year. (Say 5,000 litres first year, 2000 litres second year, 1,400 litres third year) Time to milk three cows twice a day, herd them to and from pastures, clean equipment, feed and bed cows etc was estimated as 4 hours service per day Two persons for small herd. Farm model based on two persons on rotation with the milking and herd care. Perhaps one person doing 5 days and the other 2 days per week. Holiday cover. To pay for days when regular cow carers are away on holiday or are sick we have assumed 40 days. Total labour cost. 9 (hrly rate) x 4 (hrs per day) x 405 (365+40 working days) = 14,580 euro Herd maintenance cost. This includes hay, straw, veterinary, minor repairs etc and was assumed as 4,000 euro per year (based on experience of small herds around Europe) Total milking herd cost = 18,580 euro per year (labour + maint’) Milk value. 18,580 (herd cost) / 8400 (milk yield) = 2.21 euro per litre

It was presented that the reason why the farms are giving up cow protection is because they have not secured people because they have a farm system based on volunteers and also that they have not been prepared to pay the real value for the milk. Simhacalam pays currently 0.60 euro per litre and thus the real price is four times more than they are currently paying.

		Part two-
Proposal to find funding to support small herd

Simhacalam already paying 2000 euro for milk and thus shortfall is 16,580 euro Experience around Europe has shown that our own ex-temple residents and congregation are willing to support Cow Protection through a monthly bankers donor scheme. The shortfall can be found by building up a membership/patronage/guardianship of cow protection in the respective country. The farm would have to be seen as a national project as far as fund raising is concerned. It is estimated that donors could reasonably afford 20 (240pa) or 30 (360pa) euros per month paid directly from their bank accounts to the cow protection fund. The farm would need 50 to 70 monthly donors dependant on amount given to have a financial base for cow protection. This would require a concerted endeavour from the management to find these donors. Even if there was only 20 found a year then within 3 to 4 years the necessary financial base would be found and a breeding system could be established and milk be provided for the local temple. Note: Gaurasakti prabhu informed us that Hungary is the poorest country in Europe and that they have 30 donors each giving 60 euro per month. He also informed us that the minimum wage for Hungary is 2 euro per hour (as contrasted by the 9 euro used for Simhacalam). He informed us that the internal milk price from the New Vrajadhama goshalla to the kitchen is 1.5 euro per litre.

Czech Farm – Milling Business Varnasrama Dasa They rent 25 hectares of land on the agreement that they use the land for agriculture. They grow wheat, peas, buckwheat etc which are milled and then subsequently made into prasadam which is sold. There is therefore a very real link with the production of the land and a prasadam business via the mill and kitchens. Because of the sensitivity of wheat they grow more of other crops. The mill is a vital component of the farm and is run as a business. The farm has to buy some grains from other sources in addition to the products of the farm. It was stated that to sell the grains at the local price would make the farming unfeasible. With the premium price brought by cooked products and then sold by devotees the farming is feasible. They sell 27 tonnes of flour each year. The miller receives a livelihood from work he is doing. Customers of the milled products speak very favourably of them. They noted the difference between bought flour and that freshly milled. Many people drive some distance to get the flour. Varnasrama mentioned that when a bakery stopped buying their grain because of the price the bakery subsequently collapsed. The grains are made into chevda and biscuits and sold on the street. The farm does not have sufficient capacity at this point to sell to shops There are many book sold along with the prasadam distribution. Even newer persons can do well with prasadam distribution The mill is a very important part of the farm project The mill is fully legal and authorised It is a working farm and that is living of the products of the land. This is real and excellent preaching Varnasrama mentioned that their second hand combine harvests the grains. It was done using horses before 1997. He informed us that to do it more traditionally and working within the weather windows would take 25 persons 5 or 6 hour per hectare. 50% of all the farm work is done with oxen and horses. The yields were estimated at bout 2 tonne per hectare.

European Cooperation for European Union Grants. Varnasrama Dasa Czech farm has received 40,000 euro from the European Union for establishing a living open air museum. In other words because the Farm is using traditional methods of farming that include working oxen and working horses the EU have given a grant to support it The grant was received with the aid of a group called “Local Active Group”. Varnasrama informed us that such groups are throughout the EU. They filled in the form and from the EU perspective the grant was given to them. The farm has to follow specific criteria otherwise they are in breach of the grant and would have to pay it back. The group gave an acceptable face for ISKCON. The grant givers where very happy about the application for a living museum. There are several categories of similar types of grants that Varnasrama was encouraging us to consider. He emphasised that such grants are likely for projects that involve European cooperation rather than just national projects. This would require us to learn to cooperate on an international level The European cooperation may include exchanging devotee farm workers for periods of time. Funding may also be possible for plant and tree banks.

New Vrajadhama tour. Gaurasakti Dasa

In the afternoon of both days the conference were guided around the farm project to see the practical aspects of New Vrajadhama.
Day one. Accompanied by Goverdhana lal driven by ox wagon we first visited the Goshalla. There we saw the arrangement of farm buildings and noted that the project is building for 60 cows/oxen. The farm has recently bought a Zebu bull from france. This is an initiative to try and find a better breed that can withstand the extreme Hungarian summer. The farm has seen a number of cows contracting cancer of the eye because of the suns power on the breeds white skin.
A young team of ox were put through their paces and demonstrated the current training method adopted by the trainers. The farm has 5 working teams.
One team of oxen demonstrated the cutting of hay with a 1m mower. The hay is cut one day, turned the next, rowed the next and then on a following day it is gathered, carted to the barn and stacked safely. There are long summer spells and hay making is not so dependant on finding weather windows.
The group was shown around the vegetable growing areas. There were 8 devotees working on the vegetable, fruit and flower areas and accompanying these were 2 employees from the local village. We were also informed that in addition to the building workers there were 8 villagers who were employed in the formal garden aspects of the estate.
It was reported that there were 2000 fruit trees. For most of the year the community of 120 is living off their own produce. Preservation and storage is of great importance to the community and as such they have invested 100,000 euro on a proficient and vast root cellar.
Day Two. This tour comprised looking at three of the communities housing with different levels of facilities. The first house was made with compacted mud walls, water was from a well, cooking was by wood and hot water was by wood. The second house was made from brick and had solar panels. The third house had solar panels and cooked on gas from bottles. This house had its own root cellar.
There was a indepth presentation on the large apiary at the project. They have 150 hives and from this they sell many nuclei swarms for customers. It was reported that they have enough demand for 2000 hives. They allow 40 hives to collect honey and whereas the local average yield is 15kg per hive the farm has an average of 65kgs of hone per hive. The devotee in charge of the bees is the head of the local bee keeping society. The farm is getting a lot of respect from those with interests in bees and honey. The medical honey has received a lot of good reports and many people are recommending it to their friends. The farm has a plan to expand the hives to 250. They will have a second site on the estate for the additional hives so that if there is a disease the whole lot will not be affected. The beekeeper is employed to do the post and lives in the adjoining village and not on the farm itself.

Feedback from attendees at the end of conference Feedback Requests to the European leadership Common concerns and problems Felt inspired Visit Hungary farm and see development Feel more for what you see Atmosphere friendly, encouraging each other. So many skp mtgs and so few agri mtgs Bring more seriousness to subject Push this direction of Self sufficiency

Inspiring Discuss how to solve killing of our cows Inspiring, GBC to teach importance of it Very intense –walking Propagate knowledge about the farm Surprised so much development at farm (New Vrajadhama-NV), given some power to do something bigger, importance of farming, should be taught to those in centres GBC to visit more often the farms Inspired by conference, Meeting those with same role GBC and sanyasis visit and preach about it Inspiration. Where there is a will there is a way. When devotees make endeavour Krishna helps and result is good Sanyasis and GBC more speaking about farms Inspiring how things are working on the farm

Sometimes difficult to find power to continue the farm (NV) gives spiritual power and refreshment. Can see things can be done. Happy that those coming from farms are part of a spiritual movement Preaching of GBCand Srila Prabhupada disciples of the importance of the farm Very inspired by association and presentations and ideas showed. Inspired by atmosphere to deities here. Thank you for being here (NV) SKP is being pushed more than the farm Need to show more practice More propogation Inspiring, liked SSD presentation Think about Cow Protection and farms, make plans and help Encouraging. See different projects and different possibilities More encouragement in this way of life Reassuring others live like me. Not just doing service but caring for the environment Support endeavours in Cow Protection Strategy we can all fall back on Inspired. Hope. Thank you. Hospitality and atmosphere Preach more about farms Wonderful to associate with some vision. Share ideas and new ideas. Seeing development Visit projects more More encouragement Thank you for being here and giving strength (NV) Propagate importance of the farms Very nice experience. Only KC farm community

Thank you for association. Presentations many inspiring Propagate SS way of life Compile literature and distribute Thought NV was a dream. A place that is an example Network system. Supported and appreciated by others and Euro GBC Sad to see devotees here, CP & SS not enough priority. SP 50% of his mission. Appreciate all making effort to fulfil SP desire. Hope we can go on and developing. Perhaps more than once a year. Concern about building CP on salaried individuals (have difficulty on that). Should all attend ELM Will do my best to help euro GBC and GBC More emphasis and empowerment and attention. Resolve issue of devotees receiving salaries Appreciate meeting. Network amongst us. Sense of belonging on farm projects. Less isolation Make sure SSD can do coordination seriously Ensure farms and leadership and cows do not stand alone Grateful. Took from you all Stress more on CP and farms Given me hope. Conference hope. This termination will not have to happen. Take up SP philosophy on CP and farms Frustrated about message to GBC, Pray they will be influenced Happy all came. Went beyond expectations. Feel happy with people who share same principles. Must have 100’s of these places (NV). World needs KC communities Help further development of these places Encourage Varnasrama projects GBC compulsory 10% of time on farms Work of 50% of SP mission Inspired and humbled. Presentations wonderful. Stay connected through internet Invite Euro GBC to meeting next year Spend time on Farm communities Know the cows and the cow herders

Dandavats Article by Chayadev 30.05.2008

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.