ECO-Vrindaban Launches an Array of Exciting Efforts for ISKCON’s 50th

By Madhava Smullen

ECO-Vrindaban ISKCON Garden Cows Oxen Prabhupada ISKCON 50

ECO-Vrindaban members Krsna Nama das, Nitai Chandra das, Lila, and Chaitanya Bhagavat das planting this year’s strawberry patch in New Vrindaban’s Community garden.

With ISKCON celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2016, ECO-Vrindaban – New Vrindaban’s self-sufficiency wing – is making many special efforts to honor Srila Prabhupada’s desires for the community.

One of these is to put a special focus on growing grains, which Prabhupada instructed his New Vrindaban disciples to do early on. “These duties are there in New Vrindaban, and we shall have to live there self independently, simply by raising cows, grains, fruits, and flowers,” he wrote in 1969.

“So we researched what grain best suited the local environment, and found that traditionally corn was grown here by Native Americans hundreds of years before European settlers,” says Garden Manager Nitaicandra Das. “It’s also being grown very successfully by locals today.”

To begin with in this first year, Nitaicandra plans to dedicate about five acres to corn production at the Nandagram farm recently acquired by ECO-V. He also aims to grow oats, barley, spelt, wheat, quinoa and amaranth in quarter-acre test plots.

In keeping with Prabhupada’s desires, a large variety of vegetables will be grown too, in the New Vrindaban community gardens. And of course, the Deity Flower Garden crew, headed by Vidya Dasi, will be busy producing tons of flowers for Sri-Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra.

“Produce. Make the whole field green,” Srila Prabhupada said during a conversation in Vrindavana, India in 1977. “Therefore I am asking so much… ‘Farm, farm, farm, farm.’ That is not my program—Krishna’s program.” He even later added, “Krishna is the Farm Acarya. Baladeva is holding a plow, and Krishna is holding the calf.”

Another 2016 goal of ECO-V’s, that was also a priority for Prabhupada, is to teach its growing herd of oxen to pull carts.

“We now have a state-of the art ox training facility at Nandagram,” explains Nitaicandra, who serves as the ox trainer too. “My goal is to train our oldest ox team, Hari and Priya, to pull a cart and help transport vegetables and tools in the garden this year. By New Vrindaban’s 50th anniversary in 2018, we aim for them to be ready to pull Prabhupada’s murti on a tour of Govardhana Hill.”

ECO-Vrindaban, New Vrindaban, ISKCON, Prabhupada, Cows, Garden

Ananda Vidya das and Lalita Gopi devi dasi serve the cows in a freshly painted goshala

The cow care program is also getting special attention, with Ananda-Vidya, Lalita Gopi and other staff members freshly painting the milking goshala near the temple and insulating it to ensure the cows and their caretakers stay warm. The cows themselves are producing around twenty-six gallons of milk per day, which is made into butter and ghee for the temple and its presiding Deities and residents.

ECO-V Project Manager Mukunda Das, meanwhile, is also busy with offerings to Srila Prabhupada for ISKCON’s 50th. He is renovating and re-purposing New Vrindaban’s former brick factory and milk parlor as facilities for cleaning, canning and storing vegetables and grains.

“We want to improve ECO-V’s capacity to supply ISKCON New Vrindaban with as much of its food supplies, and for as much of the year as possible,” he says.

The facilities are already being used, and will store this year’s harvest beginning in July; although the full conversion will be a multi-year project.

ECO-Vrindaban, ISKCON, Prabhupada, New Vrindaban, Cows, Garden, Simple Living, Chaitanya Mangala

Chaitanya Mangala das reports on the earth-based home built by devotees in Madhuban during the spring INV Board Meetings tour.

Another exciting effort is the restoration of special sites of Prabhupada’s pastimes. One of these is a small, off-the-grid, earth-based home built by devotees in Madhuban from Prabhupada’s own design. Prabhupada visited the home in 1974, appreciating the construction and the simple life of its householder residents. Sitting on a rocking chair, he said, “You should make thousands of these nice houses.”

“It’s in major disrepair right now, so we’ll start by assessing its condition, and preventing further decay,” says Mukunda. “Then we’ll gradually restore it as a sacred historical site, with a picture of Prabhupada on a rocking chair. It will be a place where visitors can spend a moment with him, and see what simple living in New Vrindaban used to be and what it could be again.”

In addition to its own local efforts, ECO-V is taking ISKCON 50 as an opportunity to support simple living throughout ISKCON. It will provide a grant for Kalakantha Das, the ISKCON Minister for Agriculture and Cow Protection, to travel to four farm conferences he has organized this year in South America, Europe, Asia and North America.

ECO-V will also sponsor the registration fees for fifteen devotees to attend the North American conference in Gita Nagari this August, and will send its own representatives to talk about New Vrindaban’s efforts.

These will likely be Nitaicandra and Mukunda, who are thrilled at the opportunities they’ll get this year to connect with Srila Prabhupada, by spending ISKCON’s 50th anniversary serving a project so close to his heart.

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