Since 2016, the ISKCON Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture has been organizing farm conferences all over the world, to share best practices, create networks, and inspire new projects. Now the fruits are starting to show, with more exciting plans on the way.
During the European conference in September last year in Karuna Bhavan, Scotland, Karuna Bhavan devotees invited UK MP Dr. Lisa Cameron. At the conference, Cameron spoke in favor of animal protection and was interested to hear about ISKCON’s efforts in sustainable agriculture.
Afterwards, she spearheaded an Early Day Motion at the UK Parliament which was signed by six MPs. It reads:
“That this House commends the efforts of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture; recognises the value this organisation provides, especially in the form of its Farm Conference; congratulates this conference on its 11th year; supports the conference’s objectives of finding solutions for sustainable living and offering training in the agrarian economy, food security and cow protection; and wishes for its continued success in these endeavors.”
Dr. Cameron’s office then printed the motion, and she personally presented it to Karuna Bhavan temple president Prabhupada Prana Das. This motion from the UK Parliament opens many doors for the Ministry to promote cow protection in the UK.
MP Dr Lisa Cameron presents Karuna Bhavan president Prabhupada Prana Das with an Early Day Motion from the UK Parliament
At their Annual General Meeting this Spring, ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission resolved that from June 30thonwards, devotees starting a new cow protection project must obtain a “Certificate of Readiness” to have it accredited by ISKCON.
Applicants must first read and fully understand the GBC Minimum Cow Protection Standards Law 507. They will then take an exam on what they have read, and present a well-thought out business plan, signed by their GBC, to the Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture, who will issue the certificate.
The Ministry will provide information and resources, and help the applicant with their plan. The plan should include a financial projection for the first one, five and ten years; details about the amount of land, volunteers, type of barn, milking and oxen engagement they’ll have; and a financial reserve so that cow protection can continue in the face of emergencies.
“As a result we hope to have more sustainable cow protection in ISKCON, a push on quality and training, rather than a more emotional drive,” says Ministry Director Kalakantha Das.
At their AGM this year the GBC body also issued a guideline asking all ISKCON centers to commit to making a plan to offer only milk products made from slaughter-free dairies to their Deities. The plan should be made as soon as possible, and not later than Janmastami 2022. The Ministry is offering to help temples have their plans ready by the expected date.
The Ministry has organized five conferences and two meeting in seven different continents or macro regions this year: South America in Goura Vrindavan, Brazil from June 28thto 30th; Ukraine in New Mayapur from August 16thto 18th; Russia in Omsk, Siberia from September 27thto 29th; North America in New Vrindaban, West Virginia from October 4thto 6th; and Australia in New Govardhana from November 15thto 17th.
An organizational meeting was held in Southeast Asia, Mayapur on March 2nd; and another shall be held in Europe in Krishnadur, Czech Republic from August 31stto September 1st.
Inspired and assisted by the conferences, many ISKCON farms have seen growth and success.
One of the Farm Conferences’ roles is to identify specific potential in hosting farms, and to encourage them to invest in and become teaching centers in those areas. During its first conference in 2016, Goura Vrindavan featured bamboo as a multi-purpose material. Since then, devotees there have given many seminars on the topic and have sold over 10,000 seedlings of different bamboo varieties.
Now Goura Vrindavan is preparing for the third edition of the South American Farm Conference, on June 28thto 30ththis year. Topics will include agroforestry, possible urban farm connections, biofertilizers, garden homeopathy and bioconstruction, and syntropy – farm systems which generate energy and abundance.
The Goura Vrindavan farm group gather in their bamboo greenhouse
Ukraine is famous as the breadbasket of the world. Devotees’s project there, New Mayapur, counts on a symbiotic relation between ISKCON and private initiatives. It includes a farm of 150 hectares which grows organic fruits and berries, as well as a popular Ayurvedic clinic.
ISKCON’s farm in Omsk, creatively entitled “The Planet of Cows,” produces large quantities of Ahimsa milk as a result of careful cow protection and community development. They draw many visitors interested in agro-tourism, have partnered with the Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture, and presented their project at the ISKCON Leadership Sanga in Mayapur in 2018.
Now Omsk devotees are ready to launch the first Russian Farm Conference, which will take place from September 27thto 29ththis year. Topics will include soil technologies that enhance farming, agro-tourism, and how to connect the urban and rural environments in Russia.
New Vrindaban, which began caring for ISKCON’s first cow back in 1969, will be celebrating fifty years of cow protection in ISKCON this year – so it’s the perfect time to host the third North American Farm Conference, from October 4thto 6th.
New Vrindaban’s cow protection and agriculture wing, ECO-Vrindaban, has been steadily expanding its operations. Currently it looks after 900 acres. Devotees grew nearly ten thousand pounds of vegetables and 100,000 flowers last year, cared for sixty-three cows and oxen, and produced large amounts of dairy products. The team is now looking for a new president to take them into the future.
At the farm conference in New Vrindaban, topics will include engaging “WWOOFers” as volunteers, a deeper look at the Ahimsa dairy equation, seminars by major soil scientists from North America, polytunnels, and beekeeping.
The Eco-Vrindaban crew with Nanda the ox outside their Valley Barn
New Govardhana has mastered the art of hosting volunteers. Its “Krishna Village” hosts over thirty “WWOOFers” at a time, functions as a department of the farm, offers trainings in Yoga and other subjects and generates over a million dollars every year. The farm has also just opened a new state-of-the-art Goshala.
Partnering with the Ministry, New Govardhana will host the first Australian Farm Conference from November 15thto 17th, which will offer training on building an ecovillage, holistic management for pasture lands, and syntropic farming.
The first South and Southeast Asia Farm Conference will take place in Mayapur in 2020. This is a major development, as India holds eighty per cent of ISKCON’s cows.
The decision was made at an organizational meeting on March 2ndthis year, hosted by the Mayapur Goshala.
“In the run up to the conference, Mayapur is lining up to have an exemplary goshala,” says Kalakantha Das. “They are becoming self sufficient in green fodder production and making plans for sustainable breeding, which will supply the Deities with dairy from protected cows. The bulls are back to carrying the Deities and pilgrims, and plowing the land. Recently the MEB (Mayapur Executive Board) visited the premises and were very impressed with the improvements.”
As a result of more and more enriching European Farm Conferences, Europe now has nine representatives for Cow Protection and Agriculture, covering most regions. This impressive achievement will enhance the Ministry’s work in Europe, giving it regional representatives who can assist ISKCON farms more closely and efficiently.
This year, the Czech Republic will hold the first European representatives meeting from August 31stto September 1st. During the event, representatives will be trained to assist ISKCON farms with their Certificate of Readiness. They will also receive training on the Goshala Manager course that the Ministry plans to launch by Fall 2019. Finally, they will discuss and shape the next European Farm Conference.
Worldwide, the Ministry envisions twenty-two representatives. Fifteen have already been appointed and have started their work. Kalakantha hopes to have all twenty-two positions covered by the end of this year.
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