This year 25 ISKCON devotees took part in the farm conference hosted at New Vrajamandala, Spain on the 7th to 9th of May, 2012. The conference participants heard a number of presentations on a diverse range of topics.
Dharmavatsala Das has been running a successful business making jams and preserves and distributed throughout Spain. He employs a number of local people some part time and some full. He indicated that there was opportunity to work collaboratively with New Vrajamandala as there are things that can be grown on the farm that he cannot grow in the north of Spain. It may also be possible for the farm to act as a staging point for onward delivery to middle and southern Spain.
Wheat grass Juice.
Radhakanta Das from New Vrajadhama farm, Hungary, gave a report about a business that was started on the farm but then relocated to Budapest in connection with the move of one devotee. There is an interest in people from Hungary to take wheat grass juice for therapeutic purposes and they buy wheat grass to make juice in their own homes. The devotee grows wheat grass, oat grass and rye grass in a small 2m x 4m green house on trays 30cm x 60 cm. When the grass is about 10cm tall the trays are delivered or collected by customers who then squeeze the juice with their own juicing machines. There are currently about 80 to 100 customers taking a tray weekly.
Eye cancer in cows treated successfully.
There is a growing issue of cows over 10 years old developing eye cancer. The Hungarian farm reports that 1 in 4 cows over 10 years of old will contract this problem. Whilst it is more prominent in cows with white skin around their eyes it is possible on others also. Wenda Shehata shared with us a photographic record of how she successfully treated one of her bullocks that had contracted eye cancer by the use of good attention and homeopathic medicine. Her report mentioned that there is possibility of cancer returning and it is important to have thorough daily checks of the cows to act quickly should it be noticed. Generally cows will receive chemotherapy, surgery and in some cases radiotherapy however these are not often successful.
Arthritis in cows and treatments.
It is quite likely that old cows will have some arthritis conditions and it is important that they are given appropriate medicines and care to stop or reduce any discomfort. Wenda Shehata gave a presentation on the current methods used to help a cow with this condition and coupled this with some of her own experiences with her cows and oxen.
Compost making with cow dung and straw.
Wenda Shehata gave a presentation on how to turn farm yard manure (straw bedding and cow dung) into compost. She explained how general compost is made and how it included hormones, suppressants and that all the worms were killed. In her attempts to make compost she did a trial of three methods - nothing done, turned regularly, covered. She found that the turned compost and the covered compost were suitable to make compost. Their customers don’t mind the requirement to remove some of weed seedlings because the compost is natural and has not killed the worms. They provide the compost in 70Litrebags. Apple Pressing for local people. Lidia Appleby gave a presentation on how her transition town group have a share in an apple pressing machine and how they use this to press the apples of local people. The machine presses the juice, pasteurises and bottles the juice. The bottles are sterilised re-cycled bottles but fitted with new corks. She reported that the juice will last about one year.
There was a presentation by George Kirs from new Vrajadhama how there are grants available for the hosting of adult educational projects that are suitable for farm projects. There was a detailed analysis on where to find more information about these grants and how to make applications.
Volunteer Organisations helping on ISKCON farms.
Bhagavati Das from Radhadesh explained how she had joined a couple of volunteer organisations that had an arrangement were people come, volunteer on ISKCON project in return for prasadam and accommodation. She told the conference participants what were the criteria for joining these schemes and what to provide. Her own experience was that the volunteers were of great help in the establishment of a garden and maintenance of others. She encouraged other farms to offer similar opportunities to the volunteers.
Financial study of milk Production at New Vrajadhama Hungary.
Radhakrishna Das has done some extensive analysis on the costs of milk production at the New Vrajadhama farm as part of a degree course he is doing. He made a presentation of a summary of some of the findings from the study. In a comparison it was shown that milk is being produced at about 80 cents per litre and that locally sourced organic milk sells for 1 euro per litre. The oxen costs were not included as these had their own financial analysis in their production for food, milling and transportation. His cost analysis did not include capital purchase costs of buildings but did include amelioration. He took into account all the productive an unproductive elements of the herd. Young ox were part of the ox cost analysis from the age of 6 months.
The Bull of Dharma.
Smita Krishna Swami explained the importance of the cow and bull whilst the audience were seated on the straw bedding in the middle of the Goshalla. In this workshop the participants felt closer to the bull of dharma and some felt deep emotion as they experienced the tragedy of cow abuse around the world. Working the oxen was strongly stressed as the way to show love for Dharma.
Toothpaste and skin cream.
Rukmini Das and her husband Gunagrahi Das have been successfully running high class organic markets in the north of Italy. They make a lot of their own products during the conference they showed how to make toothpaste using seasalt, bicarbonate of soda, white clay and essential oil. Everyone was surprised at the expertise and yet simplicity of making this essential dental requirement. Each of the audience was given a sample of freshly made toothpaste in a small pot. Then Rukmini showed how to make some simple and natural cream for skin application. Due to Italian legislation it was mentioned that these products cannot be made for general sale but are only suitable for direct sale to a customer known by the maker.
Olive Tree Care.
Gunagrahi Das has extensive knowledge in the growing, care and harvesting of olive trees. He gave a thorough presentation on all aspects of olive care, from choice of location, pruning, feeding and harvesting. He mentioned the modern method of oil removal uses chemicals to get more oil rather than just pressing. He advised we use extra virgin oil.
Mangalananda and Govindanandini Das have been taking care of food production at Prabhupadadesh for two years. In 2011 they had doubled production on the previous year. Whilst this is not their only source of income it is increasing year on year and they are hopeful for the future. They grow vegetables, fruits and flowers, press juice and run a market stall as well as provide food for the deities and temple. They are developing and initiative to get people to take a standing monthly order to support natural growers.
Villa Vrindavana report.
Laxmana Das is taking care of the cows and reported that the plans for the new goshalla are going through modification to take the opportunity of installing solar panels on the roof. This will assist with the financing of the new buildings. He showed how the land will be laid out so the cows gain access to grazing grounds and how the buildings will be an important part of tourist interest. The local government are supportive of the plans for the farm. Parodaya Prabhu is developing the agricultural lands and has currently re-invigorated 500 of the 1200 olive trees.
New Vrajamandala farm tour.
The farm has well laid out terraces with linked irrigation channels. Whilst most of these are not being used to their capacity they are assets laying ready. The farm is 300 hectares and still be biggest estate in Europe. The arable land is being farmed under contract from a local farmer. There are two goshallas on the estate one as part of the temple and a second one under an individuals own initiative. In total there are 12 cows (two pregnant) and 2 bulls (not oxen). 7 of the cows are currently milking with one of them giving a little milk without having a calf. The farm has the opulence of an irrigation channel which leads to a water turbine house for electricity production (not currently working). There is a river and stream running through the property. Much of the land is wooded with forest or bush.
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