for ISKCON News on Nov. 6, 2010
Although there has been a farm at ISKCON’s Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK since the 1970s, its first fully sustainable farm project, New Gokula—which is set to officially open this weekend—will take the community’s efforts to the next level.
The opening ceremonies will begin at 10am on Saturday November 6th with addresses by ISKCON guru Bhakti Charu Swami and special guest Dominic Grieve QC MP, Attorney General for England and Wales. Other guests of honour will include MPs, Mayors and representatives from the faith, environment and farming communities.
At 11:30am, there will be a fire sacrifice accompanied by thirty priests chanting Vedic mantras, followed by the official ribbon-cutting. During the opening ceremonies there will also be ancient costumes, traditional dances, ox power demonstrations and cart rides, and devotional kirtan singing.
The forty-four cows and bulls—mostly dairy Short Horns and Meuse-Rhine-Yssel—who call New Gokula their home were described in a Times newspaper article as living on “The Hilton of farms.” And there’s no doubt that they’re treated better than any other cows in England.
“They feed on about eighty acres of grazing land, most of which is on the Manor property, rest in a 3,000 square meter oak building that has taken the past year to construct, and are played relaxing music as they are hand-milked,” says Bhaktivedanta Manor Communications Secretary Radha Mohan Dasa. “And of course, they are all protected and allowed to live their full natural-life span. There is even a hospice for non-productive cows and bulls.”
At a cost of 2.5 million pounds, and having taken over five years to complete, the New Gokula farm stands as a feat of accomplishment for the Manor’s community. “The project demonstrates our respect of the earth and those with whom we share it,” Radha Mohan says. “We hope it will be a blueprint for future sustainable farming.”
Seven devotees work regularly on the farm, feeding, doing maintenance, working with the bulls in the fields, herding, beekeeping, and of course milking.
Lately, with increased cattle and surplus milk, one of New Gokula’s most exciting projects has been launched: a pilot scheme where the public can purchase the milk from its cows.
Commercially branded as Ahimsa—or milk produced without harm to any living being—it will be the most expensive milk in the UK, at £3 a litre. However, demand is already outstripping supply.
“This premium milk will offer consumers the chance to avoid buying from an industry which is based around slaughter and suffering, and instead buy from a fresh, new and compassionate alternative,” said Sita Rama Dasa, Director of Bhaktivedanta Manor’s charity wing the Lotus Trust.
Most farms in the UK slaughter their cows for human or domestic animal consumption after about five years of their milking life. However, the Ahimsa campaign is looking to collaborate with farms to take care of their cows until they die naturally.
“Ultimately, Ahimsa is a good outreach opportunity regarding environmental, vegetarian and animal welfare issues,” says Radha Mohan. “We can reach out to many secular members of the general public who are interested in these areas.”
New Gokula will also be a big draw for visitors: it features a full viewing facility so that people can see the workings of the farm, and will have ox cart rides for school children.
Twelve thousand school children, and approximately 200,000 members of the general public, are expected to visit every year.
To learn more about Ahimsa milk, please visit: http://www.ahimsamilk.org/