About 350 people streamed in through the rustic cob entranceway of ISKCON Alachua’s Eco Teaching Farm on October 27th, buzzing and excited to attend its third annual Fall Festival and learn more about simple living and higher thinking.
As well as devotees, among the crowd were local families from Alachua and the nearby town of Gainesville, and students from the University of Florida.
“For some, it was their first experience of the Hare Krishna community,” says Tapasvini Dasi, who helped organize the festival along with New Raman Reti president Mukhya Dasi and the farm’s driving force Akuti Dasi.
The Fall Festival was also a chance to share information with local experts. From 10am to 4pm, the day was packed with speakers, demonstrations and workshops, creating an experience that at times left visitors feeling as if they had stepped back into a simpler and more spiritual time.
Visitors take a hayride into the farm
There were herb walks with a local herbalist who showed people how to identify edible and useful plants in their area. There were hands-on workshops on how to make your own puris and fresh cheese, or curd, in the barn kitchen. There was making flatbreads over a homemade mud stove fed with cow dung.
A permaculture speaker from Jacksonville gave lectures on building healthy soil. A UF professor gave a demonstration of the farm’s biogas digester, which converts methane from cow manure and compost into fuel for a stove. Balabhadra Das from ISCOWP spoke about holistic cow care and going beyond just getting milk from the cow.
Elsewhere people learned how to make their own salve ointments and household cleaners with natural ingredients. Others had fun getting their hands dirty, as they mixed cob and helped chink the gaps in a log cabin Akuti Dasi is building with local pine trees.
“The cabin will eventually be a little gift shop where local devotees can sell their crafts and eco products,” Tapasvini says.
Balabhadra Das of ISCOWP brings two young oxen to meet visitors
Meanwhile ongoing activities throughout the day included meeting and feeding the cows, blacksmithing, beekeeping with a live observation beehive, pottery wheel demonstrations, bamboo craft vendors, and hay rides.
There was also a sugarcane boil, where visitors could help juice sugarcane with a hand press, then boil the juice down in an outdoor brick stove to make syrup.
“One of our goals with the event was to show people that there’s this whole other side of the Hare Krishnas, besides the stereotypical ideas they have of us,” says Tapasvini. “And I think we succeeded. Many people who were interested in nature, ecology or gardening really enjoyed it.”
Outside of its Fall Festivals, the Eco Teaching Farm is a place of learning for the community. It has offered workshops including canning and food preservation, and given field trips to schools and garden clubs.
Akuti Dasi's daughter Gopal Romeo gives pottery demonstrations
Tapasvini and her husband have given cow care, gardening and cob classes to the students of the community school Bhaktivedanta Academy, and taken the children to the farm to do arati and feed the cows on festival days like Gopastami and Govardhana Puja.
“I hope the Farm continues to grow and give people an example of how we can live closer to nature, and not be completely caught up in the normal material way of life,” says Tapasvini.[ agriculture ] [ alachua ] [ cow ] [ cow-protection ] [ farming ] [ florida ]