Sustainable Living in Hungary


This July 23rd, 24th and 25th saw the fifteenth annual Krishna Valley Fair held at ISKCON Hungary’s 660-acre sustainable farm.

Five thousand people visited New Vraja Dhama—also known as Krishna Valley—over the long weekend, which is advertised as an Indian festival.

People flooded in at 10:00am and stayed until 7pm to shop at the stalls, eat prasadam food, and watch the stage show featuring martial arts exhibitions, yoga presentations, an Indian wedding, spiritual music and dance, short speeches, and a children’s play.

Especially popular was the Hare Krishna Reality Show, which attracted long lines and saw 500 people participate over the duration of the Fair. “Contestants” entering the four-section, 1,000 square foot tent had no idea what to expect—only that as with most reality shows, they were about to experience how others live.

Entering the first room, the men were given dhotis and the women saris, and all were dressed in the traditional robes and adorned with sacred tilak clay. In the second room, devotees gave them japa beads and taught them how to chant the Hare Krishna mantra, and they chanted one round together.

In the third room, they learned how to make and fry their own puris—traditional Indian bread-like snacks. Warned that the puris were not eatable, they kept them on paper plates and walked to the fourth room, where they offered them at an altar of Lord Krishna. As they waited for the offering, they filled out a questionnaire, leaving their contact details with Krishna Valley devotees. They then received and ate the puris that they had fried and offered themselves.

Visitors were also given a demonstration of the simple lifestyle from a past age that the devotees live. They learned how to work oxen, how to cut grass with oxen-driven equipment, and how to plow. They took guided tours of the goshala (cow barn), organic garden, and the temple, where they saw Radha-Shyamasundara and purchased Prabhupada’s books in the thousands on their way out.

Established in 1993 by ISKCON guru and GBC Sivarama Swami, Krishna Valley is a sustainable farm community of the kind that ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada encouraged devotees to establish all over the world.

The 150 devotees that reside on the property produce all their own food—the only things that they have to buy are rice, sugar, salt, and some Indian spices.

They plant more than sixty different varieties of vegetables manually, using natural methods such as coupling. “Just as with human beings, some plants naturally like others,” explains Radha Krishna Dasa, who moved to Krishna Valley five years ago with his wife and mother. “For instance, we plant marigolds between cucumbers, and basil between tomatoes. This attracts the useful flies that pollenate the vegetables, and creates a larger crop.”

The community also has more than 600 fruit and nut trees which yield apples, peaches, pears, plums, walnuts, and much more. Its 2,000 square foot storage cellar, built three years ago, keeps vegetables and fruit throughout the winter so that devotees never have to get produce from outside sources.

Although they eat ten times more than the average Hungarian, they have ten times more grain than they need, and more than enough honey. All the grain required by the community is produced with an oxen-drawn cart—only excess grain, from which the devotees make and sell cereals, is produced with the use of a tractor.

And since Krishna Valley is an eco-farm, all this is planted without the use of any pesticides, chemicals, or artificial fertilizers. “Instead we use compost, cow dung, and different kinds of home-made liquids that nourish the soil,” says Radha Krishna Dasa. “For instance, we soak stinging nettle in rainwater, using our rainwater harvesting system, and pump it through the drip irrigation system, so it nourishes the plants and keeps away bugs and insects.”

As well as its 600 fruit trees, the community also keep over 400 different indigenous Hungarian fruit-tree types, as part of a gene bank that keeps indigenous species alive. There is also plenty of forest on the farm—during the seventeen years of Krishna Valley’s existence, devotees have planted a quarter of a million trees.

As well as the grain it sells, the community also makes income from the 30,000 paying tourists that visit every year and eat at its Govinda’s restaurant (which does use produce from outside sources).

“Last year we launched our own line of Govinda’s organic drinks, which have proven quite popular,” says Radha Krishna. “They come in three flavors: William
Pear, Peach, and Vitamix (pumpkin and carrot), and have 100% fruit content with all-organic ingredients including an organic sugarcane sweetener.”

Krishna Valley also has its own zero-energy, zero-chemical reed-bed waste treatment system, and each family has its own water well. Meanwhile, a pipeline is under construction that is expected to provide devotees with their own drinking water from a 1,300 foot-deep mineral water well within the next year. Since it is owns all this outright, the community will not have to pay anything for either its water or sewage system.

As the only Eco Village in Hungary that shows actual long-term results in social, economic, and environmental sustainability, one of Krishna Valley’s main goals is to help others develop their farms and agriculture. This autumn, community members will hold a workshop for two fledgeling Hungarian farms, and are developing training courses for other such efforts.

Three years ago, devotees also started the Eco Valley Foundation as a means to reach people all over the world—especially those at high levels of society—with their message.

“Last year, I gave eighty presentations around the world, five of which were at a United Nations NGO meeting attended by thousands of people during the Cop15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen,” says Radha Krishna. “I spoke on self-sufficiency, self-sufficient farm communities, economic sustainability, and about how to start a sustainable farm.”

Such presentations have attracted interest from very high profile people. One of the top three scientists sent to Copenhagen as representatives of Hungary, Professor Dida, told Radha Krishna: “Whenever you have anything that I can participate in, please let me know.” Other university professors, botanists, and ecologists, have become part of the Eco Valley Foundation.

Last year, Krishna Valley held a scientific conference with 2,450 attendees including university students, professors, top scientists, politicians and businessmen. This year, they will hold three conferences, one of them an international one on sustainability. They are working with the Hungarian Science Academy on soil research and other research programs, and hold regular sustainability open days for interested members of the public.

They also work in cooperation with many universities—these currently include one in India, one in Dubai, and eight in Hungary. “The universities organize, advertise, and provide the venues for us to present ecologic workshops, and we just go there,” says Radha Krishna. “Some universities also send their students to come to our farm for several semesters of their BSc studies.”

Radha Krishna explains the importance of spiritual, self-sufficient farm communities like Krishna Valley: “There are many economic, environmental and social problems in today’s world,” he says. “And to quote Albert Einstein, ‘The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.’ So we need to change our approach, and we need a fixed base on which to do so, guided by Srila Prabhupada through his teachings and representatives such as Sivarama Swami.”

Radha Krishna suggests that other ISKCON projects aiming for this goal take things step by step, and take advice from ISKCON farm communities that already have results.

“We are always happy to share our experience, and the problems we have gone through, to help others on the road to success,” he says.

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 14 Aug 2010