Chakra Living

Small Garden Blooms Into Big Preaching

by Nitin Puri das

Posted June 3, 2009

Late summer production of Swiss chard and okra.

First Lady Michelle Obama's organic garden on the White House lawn has attracted worldwide attention, both positive and negative. Organic enthusiasts nationwide laud her effort to grow a tiny patch of vegetables, while heavily subsidized agribusiness giants feel threatened. They should be frightened. What if people turned away from toxic food and began growing staples in their own backyards? What if the dialogue about food and where it comes from was elevated to include a spiritual perspective? What if your local ISKCON city temple or farm was on the cutting edge of the debate? What if the public saw Krishna communities as pioneers in sustainability? What if?

Learning the organic way from shared experience.

According to Tapahpunjah das, project director for New Vrindaban's Small Farm Training Center, energy independence and food production are hot-button topics that offer a unique opportunity to expand Krishna-conscious outreach. In 2008 his apprenticeship program drew 14 students. Apprentices not only learn the ABC's of organic culture but are schooled to become articulate spokespersons for the cause of sustainability.

What began as a simple garden has blossomed into a successful preaching project that can be duplicated elsewhere. The short story that follows illustrates how being focused on Srila Prabhupada's order yields bushels of results:

Devotees construct a sturdy deer fence, thanks to a benefactor's generous donation.

One day as I was driving past the half-acre roadside Teaching Garden across the street from the temple, I noticed Kripa Maya das and a group of Indian guests standing in the garden. Upon seeing me, Krpa Maya began waving his arms in a frantic attempt to get me to stop. I reluctantly pulled over (reluctant because I was covered head to toe with grease from a tractor repair job) and trudged into the garden to greet the guests.

As we strolled through the grassy pathways, I pointed out the numerous beds of vegetables, flowers and medicinal herbs. Towards the end of the tour, I lamented that the park-like plot was sufficient to provide bhoga for the Deity kitchen and mandir but too small to secure and stabilize the food supply for the greater New Vrindaban community. I also mentioned a nearby abandoned pasture that was ideally situated were it not plagued by New Vrindaban's deer population, numbering about 100 deer per square mile. One of the guests asked: "What do you need?"

Women pick some spearmint for making chutney (and toothpaste).

"A fence, an 8-foot physical barrier," I retorted, "That's the only thing that stops them from invading."

"What would such a fence cost,?" he inquired. I had never carefully researched fencing, but by the grace of Supersoul I unhesitatingly said: "$8,000!" The number just sort of popped into my psyche and came out as a kind of matter-of-fact statement. The tour group thanked me for the twenty-minute experience and parted to leave. About 30 minutes later the man who had asked about the 8-foot fence returned, pulled out his chequebook and cut a cheque for $8,000. He said: "If you could make this garden look so beautiful, I'm sure you can do wonders in your deer-infested pasture."

Rainbow frames the cow barn after a summer storm.

That pasture, now called the Garden of Seven Gates, has become a magnet attracting aspiring students, agricultural professionals, research grants from local universities, and is a working model which integrates Krishna-conscious farming, preaching and future land settlement based on Srila Prabhupada's vison for simple living.

If you would like to learn more about The Small Farm Training Center, contact Tapahpunjah das at or visit his website