For the past 13 years a European Farm Conference has been organized for farmers and anyone interested in agriculture and cow protection by ISKCON. The idea is to create networks and unite everyone towards goals for cow protection and simple rural living. This year the conference was hosted at the Krishnuv Dvur community in the Czech Republic between the 30th August and the 1st September. The participants were made up of the European regional representatives of the ISKCON community and many other key players with a common interest in the realms of agriculture, cow protection, horticulture and rural development. Representatives of our foundation have also participated in the program.
Everyone was treated to an exciting weekend in this ideal rural setting southeast of Prague where members of Krishnuv Dvur have been running their farm community since 1977. About half a dozen families directly live or spend their day in the community itself while another 80 people reside in the surrounding area and take part in the activities of the community including farming, festivals and spiritual programs.
The participants were given a guided tour of the farm to its 40 hectars of fields of which 20 hectares are arable land, 20 hectares are pasture and grass lands with the barns, where 16 cows and bulls are being cared for. The farm grows its own hay and produces 100 round bales on 10 hectares of land plus their own straw for bedding (around 20 round bales per hectare). Each year the members also grow 25 tonnes of grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, buckwheat and peas; in addition they also grow potatoes. The arable work follows a low till system where a covering crop is always planted to avoid bare land. The rotation systems consists of peas, wheat, rye and buckwheat.
The vegetable growing in the vegetable garden of 500 m2 is quite abundant, which yields 1.5 to 2 tonnes of vegetables per year. This very productive patch of land only takes 300 hours of work per year and supplies the community kitchen with most of its needed produce. They specialize in drought resistant vegetables or at least grow the crops with little irrigation. Mulching plays an important part in their system to keep in moisture.
The tour also included a visit to the flour mill which has become a big business for the farm. In addition to the grain grown on the farm, 75 tonnes is purchased from outside sources to be made into flour and other ground products. Some of it is used in the bakery and the community kitchen but most of it is sold in markets that have a high demand for good quality floor.
Supplying milk from protected cows and managing the details connected to such an initiative took up quite a lot of time of the discussions during the meeting. But other presentations were also there. Devotees from New Vraja Dhama in Hungary explained how they are exploring ways of self-sufficiency in cloth-making. They are growing flax and hemp and making material from it and also planning to get sheep for wool.
At the conclusion of the conference Leif Jensen from Denmark gave a presentation about urban farming, making the point that farming, small-scale horticulture and self-sufficiency the whole year around with vegetables, fruits and herbs are not limited to big farm projects in rural areas, but is achievable for anyone with even a few square meters plot of land.
The meeting was well attended and participants left enthusiastic to continue with their community work and farming projects, however, they are already thinking of next year’s Farm Conference meeting.