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January 2014

Bhaikaka Krishi Gurukul Is Now Fully Operational
The Bhaikaka Krishi Gurukul has now bloomed from a mere idea into a beautiful and sublime facility thanks to the incessant focus and perseverance of the farmer. Everybody who visits the Gurukul wholeheartedly feels that this place has some special charm and energy. The Gurukul facilitated the hosting of the BDAI conference and two workshops back to back.

BDAI Conference
The Bhaikaka Krishi Kendra hosted the Biennial BDAI Conference from 9th to 11th January 2014. Over 90 delegates from India and abroad attended. The theme of this conference was Seed Production and Dairy and what better venue for this than this farm.

Peter Proctor and Rachel Pomeroy came down from New Zealand to their Karma Bhoomi to provide that extra special spark and infuse the Biodynamic movement in India with renewed energies and momentum. The open air auditorium in the verdant bamboo groves of this beautiful biodynamic farm provided the perfect setting for this two day conference. All the delegates were awed by the productivity, robust health and diversity of this farm that has rightly earned high praise from Peter Proctor who says that this is the best Biodynamic Farm in the world that he has seen. Friedemann Ebner, one of the speakers at the conference confirmed this sentiment when he said that he has seen many farms in Switzerland, France and other parts of Europe but never seen one that matches this in vegetable production, health and management - this coming from one of the world's premier experts in organic seed production was indeed high praise. The farmer, Sarvdaman Patel, charmed everybody with his amazing knowledge and generosity in sharing the wealth of experience that he carries in his lanky frame as he proudly took everybody on a farm walk. Everybody went back reassured that such bountiful productivity and quality is possible on a sustainable farm giving lie to the often repeated conventional argument that organic practices cannot feed the world. It becomes all the more important why this national ecological treasure and the training center (Bhaikaka Krishi Gurukul) being established at this farm needs all the support it can get from the Sustainable farming community.

The proceedings were flagged off by Peter giving an inspiring talk [Download] to his faithful. Peter's enthusiasm, energy and optimism, not withstanding his age (he is now 85) and the recent deterioration in his health and an arduous 36 hour journey he had just braved the previous day, was undiminished and it felt like old times again.

The food was superlative with much of the vegetables esp. the leafy kind sourced fresh from the farm itself. The farmer estimated that 75% of the ingredients were organic but everything was so good to the palate that this ecologically conscious crowd would have probably cared less.
All the speakers Anita, Friedemann, Jakes, Lucas, Pontus, Ramanjaneyulu, Sujit and Vanaja were fabulous and kept every body spellbound [Download Anita's, Friedemann's, Jakes', Lucas', Pontus', Ramanjaneyulu's, Sujit's and Vanaja's or All presentations]. Very few people were seen nodding off despite the enormous meal that they had partaken [Download Photographs and spot all the participants who were caught napping by our ever alert photographer Jnana]. The conference was attended by many leading lights of the Biodynamic movement like David Hogg, Jaspal Singh, Briony and others

Workshop On Basics Of Biodynamic Agriculture

This workshop from 12th to 15th January, 2014 covered the basics of Biodynamic farming. More than 30 participants from India and abroad attended the workshop. The participants came from very diverse backgrounds - practicing farmers to software engineers to social activists. Peter and Rachel's presence at the workshop brought in once again that deeply spiritual element to farming making each day seem very very profound & special. Each formal session would start at 9:00 a.m. with Peter reciting the 'Verse for Farmers' - his voice ringing with the same conviction, hope and passion. For those of us who were ordained into the organic and biodynamic world by Peter, it was a deeply moving and spiritual experience to listen to him again. This would be followed by Rachel's recitation of the 'Verse for the Day' in her gentle yet firm voice. Over the four days, participants had an intensive hands-on exposure to all the practical aspects of Biodynamic farming right from making and applying BD500, BD501, CPP, Compost to making Liquid Manures, Tree Paste etc, The theoretical aspects were covered with equal intensity.

The faculty included the leading luminaries of the Biodynamic movement - the farmer himself and the wonderfully erudite David Hogg. Briony Young, Regina Dass & Jaspal Singh provided able support. The added bonus was that Rachel herself handled all the sessions on the Planting Calendar and Star Gazing. Teaching Biodynamics on this farm is perhaps not a great challenge as, for the most part, the farm does all the talking but one never tires listening to these exceptional teachers. On the third evening, we had the divinely wonderful experience of watching 'One Man, One Cow, One Planet' with Peter & Rachel. Watching this movie again reminded (not that any of us needed reminding) of Peter's tireless work and the tremendous impact he has had on us, both at the personal level and as a collective.Each day would actually start much earlier. Even before the chorus of the babblers we would start with a farm walk with the farmer (days 1 & 2), BD501 stirring and application (day3) and nature walk with Dhaval Patel founder of Vidyanagar Nature Conservancy (day 4).

The sessions would go on late into the evening and end with a yoga session with Briony or star gazing with Rachel or singing around the campfire. The highlight of the 2nd evening was the star gazing with Sri. Brij Mohan who with his powerful 8" telescope showed us the craters of the moon, the four moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. He regaled us with mythological stories and scientific facts & fiction of the stars and planets. On the fourth day, Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust gave an overview of the Organic Movement in Gujarat followed by Anjali who talked about the marketing aspects. After lunch, Dhaval Patel of Vidyanagar Nature Conservancy brought in his snakes and participants were able to interact with them. Many of the myths about snakes were laid to rest and their importance to a farm eco-system was reemphasized. Dhaval is looking for enthusiastic volunteers for the many exciting nature projects they are involved with. See Of the over 30 such workshops that the Senior Apprentice has been associated with over the last 7 years, this workshop has been the best to date.

Workshop On Vegetable, Fodder and Dairy Management

This workshop from 16th to 18th January covered the practical aspects of growing good vegetables and fodder and managing a Dairy. This again had over 30 participants with many from the previous workshop continuing on with this workshop. Almost all the sessions (theory and hands-on) were lead by the tireless Farmer with his amazing capacity to recall & communicate. There was hardly a question that did not get a learned well reasoned answer. Participants got to learn practical aspects of starting a seedling nursery, soil block technology, leaf mold compost, making raised beds, drip and porous pipe technology for irrigation, transplanting, direct seed sowing (both manually and with a hand drawn seeder), different types of fodder, growing fodder on flat beds, tractor operations like disc harrowing and cultivation, making corn silage, making alfalfa hay, cow housing, collecting cow washings and dispensing it into the fields etc. The amount of information that was packed in these three days was just amazing and the hungry participants lapped up every bit of it. There was a special talk by Dr. S.H.Swaminarayanan on 'Application of Homeopathy in Dairy' and by Christelle on 'Biodynamic Bee Keeping Using Sunhives'. She also covered the practical aspects of bee keeping. Ashish Gupta, one of the senior apprentices at the Gurukul gave an introduction to seed saving and production. He will be leading the seed initiative at the Gurukul.While these types of workshops are not the only objective of the Gurukul, they go a long way to (a) allow participants get a whiff of the techniques and possibilities of sustainable farming, (b) generate confidence that sustainable farming is indeed possible/profitable, (c) knock down myths such as 'Organic Practices Not Being Able To Feed The World' and (d) become an important focal point for networking (forming many dear, valuable and lifelong friendships among people who share the same reverence, concern & love for the natural world).

The next workshop is already planned from December 8th to 13th of 2014. So please mark your calendar and start spreading the word. We are also planning to start new initiatives like restarting the Farm Shop, starting a poultry, biodynamic bee keeping, seed production, using soil blockers in nursery for seed production etc. We are looking for long term apprentices wanting to specialize in any of these will areas.

December 2013
Four lady students from the Nutan Gram Vidyapeeth, Thava, Tehsil Valia, Baruch, Gujarat are currently staying on the farm and undergoing intensive hands-on training as part of their practice school requirements. They stay in the tents at the Gurukul, cook their own meals & are amazingly hard working and hospitable. They are very good with all the farm work. They are among the rare bunch of trainees who have been able to really impress the farmer with both their dedication & abilities. They have been learning about the Biodynamic practices under Briony - spraying BD500, BD501 and making lots of CPPs.
Solar fencing is being put all around the farm to keep the Langurs and Wild Boars away.

The fields are all full with new growth of Alfala, Oats, Barley, Wheat, Sunflower, Fodder Beet, Linseed, Buckwheat, and over thirty varieties of vegetables.

November 2013
The farm hosted a pilot batch of 7 students from the Inba Seva Sangam’s School of Biodynamic Farming, Vinobhajipuram in Tamil Nadu, for a month. This practice class at the end of the fourth term, is part of their curriculum.

October 2013
The farmer is focusing all his energies on getting the Gurukul infrastructure up. The kitchen, dining areas are partially ready and quite functional. The Heifer area is also ready. Follow the progress of the Gurukul in the pictures below.

September 2013
The monsoons are just behind us and the farm will see a spurt of activities. The lush fodder will be cut and made into hay and silage, the green manure crops will be ploughed in, hundreds of seedlings will be started in the nursery, the vegetables beds will be repaired and made ready for the vegetable season.

Voluntary Nature Conservancy,
Vallabh Vidyanagar, Distt. Anand, Gujarat, India
Phone: +91 99710 54784 / +91 98250 45730

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