Clockwise: Smita Krishna Swami, Balabhadra das, Syamasundara das, Gaura Sakti das
The New Vraja Dhama Farm Community in Hungary hosted the first ever annual ISKCON Farm Conference this May.
Devotees from America, England, Belgium, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, and Hungary attended, many of them cowherds and farmers.
European CPA (Cow Protection and Agriculture) Minister Syamasundara Dasa organized the event, aiming to reverse the decline in ISKCON Farm development within the last ten years.
In his opening address, Global CPA Minister Balabhadra Dasa stressed that our farm communities are the starting point to developing the self-sufficient life Srila Prabhupada envisioned. “As gas, food, and living costs sky rocket, the world will begin to look to such farms for the solutions to an increasingly difficult life,” he said.
Leaders then delivered presentations on their farms. Haladhara Dasa from England talked about the Govardhan Whole Food business, which helps to support the Cornwall Farm Project. And the ISKCON farm in Czech, said Varnasrama Dasa, produces its own flour, and helps support its community with a successful flour mill business.
A guided tour of the New Vraja-dhama ISKCON farm, currently the most self-sufficient in Europe, with temple president Gaura Shakti Dasa was a central part of the conference. “From June through October, our 120-strong community consume only fresh produce from the farm,” Gaura Shakti explained.
He also showed the tour group the 150-foot long by 20-foot wide storage unit in which New Vraja Dhama keeps its grain and potatoes for the winter months. And when devotees saw the five trained teams of oxen, 2,000 fruit trees, and five acres of vegetables, they were inspired with hope for their own farm projects.
Questions still remained, however. For instance, could farmers and cowherds be provided for so that they could stay on the farms and support their families? Yes, according to Smita Krishna Swami from Sweden, who explained how the ISKCON farm there provides housing for its workers. Gaura Shakti added that Hungary’s New Vraja Dhama is also working on housing development.
Meanwhile Balabhadra Dasa and GBC member Sivarama Swami balanced out the practical discussion with emphasis on the spiritual importance of farm projects. Self-sufficient living requires the social system of Varnasrama, said Sivarama Swami, of which cow protection is an integral part. Balabhadra Dasa chimed in, explaining how the entire cycle of preparing the land with oxen, planting seeds, nurturing the resulting plants, harvesting their fruits, and then offering them to Krishna is the perfection of devotional life.
Devotees left the conference for their respective farms inspired and hopeful for the future.
Check out the May archives at www.sivaramaswami.com
for audio of the event.