Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Scotland’s Karuna Bhavan to Host European Farm Conference
By Madhava Smullen   |  Jun 23, 2018

The ISKCON Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture (IMCPA) is busy bringing Krishna conscious farm projects around the world together to share best practices in a series of regional conferences. They hope to hold gatherings in six continents by 2020, culminating in a global summit.

But first, the longest running conference – the European Farm Conference – will hold its eleventh annual meeting in Karuna Bhavan, Scotland, on the weekend of September 7thto 9th.

“We are quite a small affair here, but organizers thought it would be a good choice to give other smaller farms inspiration and share with them what works,” says temple president Prabhupada Prana Das. 

Karuna Bhavan is indeed a good example of a hardworking smaller ISKCON farm community. Devotees there have seven years of experience hosting WWOOFers – they work with around 100 volunteers every year. They also have renewable technologies such as windmills, a biomass boiler, solar panels, and a rainwater irrigation system in their walled garden – where spinach, kale, potatoes, cabbage, beans and tomatoes are grown. A small orchard is home to plum and apple trees.

A visiting group with devotees at Karuna Bhavan

There’s space for about fifty people to attend the conference at Karuna Bhavan. Most are likely to be representatives from ISKCON farms throughout Europe. Students from universities throughout Scotland will also be welcomed. 

Since the conference is entitled “Awareness, the Youth, the Economy and the Mode of Goodness,” ISKCON youth who are interested in an ecological lifestyle, or are just exploring what to do with their lives are particularly welcome.

“We hope that they will come along,” says Prabhupada Prana. “Not that they get some kind of handed-down vision of what the youth could do, but that they come along and be a part of it. A lot of young people today are quite aware of the environment, and there’s a lot of consciousness going towards simple living again, and a more agrarian and self-reliant economy. So we want to increase awareness that there is a feasible future in it for them.”

Conference participants will learn how to spin wool

At the conference Shyamasundara Das, former director of cow protection at Bhaktivedanta Manor, will speak about the creation of a certificate of readiness for any ISKCON farm that wants to protect cows. This will incorporate a feasibility study to ensure the farm is ready and has what it needs to run a responsible cow protection program. Karuna Bhavan is one of those stepping forward to partake in the study and apply for a certificate.

GBC Praghosa Das, who manages a successful Govinda’s restaurant in Dublin, Ireland, will speak about establishing farm to restaurant connections. This would provide ISKCON restaurants with organic locally-grown produce, and farms with a source of income.

Ajita Das, temple president in New Govardhana, Australia, will talk about his extensive experience with his own successful WWOOFing program, which has seen many farm volunteers become devotees. 

Karuna Bhavan’s windmill and walled garden

There will also be presentations on Ahimsa dairy projects, to minimize temples purchasing commercial dairy; and a UK-wide national cow retirement program.

Guests from outside ISKCON will be making presentations on the Global Eco Village Network and Findhorn Ecovillage in Northern Scotland, one of the largest intentional communities in Britain. 

There will also be workshops on wool-spinning, renewable technologies, flower and fruit drying, and seed banking – producing and storing one’s own seeds rather than buying them from multinational corporations.

Additional guests will include Smita Krishna Swami and Kalakantha Das, the director of the ISKCON Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture.

Farm poster

The poster for the ISKCON farm conference at Karuna Bhavan

“Kalakantha has pointed out that while the workshops and presentations are good, what really passes on the knowledge and gets people moving at these conferences is the networking and sharing of best practices,” says Prabhupada Prana. “So we will be doing a lot of that too.”

The networking will extend far beyond the conferences as well.

“When devotees meet like this, they create a bond where they can now approach each other throughout the year to find out how to start a new project, or get tips from someone who’s doing what they’ve been doing, but better,” Prabhupada Prana says. “It’s fantastic!”

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