The golden gates of New Gokula Farm rise above the rolling green hills at the end of a quiet meandering track through the Hunter Valley. Nestled at the foothills of Pokolbin State forest in Millfield, the farm is a sanctuary to 65 cows, bullocks and calves and home to the Hare Kristna temple of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda.
We are greeted by quiet, children play in a playground below the main temple,
swathed in richly coloured Indian fabrics. There is a heady strong scent and
song wafting from the mud brick temple. The sign by the walk to the temple
‘Welcome to New Gokula Farm. We are working tirelessly to maintain a sacred,
spiritual atmosphere…’ Followed by their requests on how they wish visitors to
respect their place.
In the simple temple is an alter with Indian figures made from cloth and richly
decorated, a couple of devotees sing, dance and play a tambourine, dressed in
their traditional white robes. It is light, joyful.
|Photos of resident cows each with a name, most have sponsors that ensure their care is provided for.|
The Hunter Organic Growers members and visitors gather in their large hall, an
enclosed verandah off the temple. It’s hot outside, the light streams through
the many windows. Large dishes of broad beans and their leaves, salads with
cheese and a traditional puffed bread of Puris, and rice were served. A lemon
drink and cold desserts of sweet rice pudding and a semolina and mulberry dish
called Halava. Many of the ingredients were grown less than 100 meters from
where we consumed them. Vegetarian food has never been so good!
Kaliya. A man with a thoughtful face pink from the sun wearing a broad brimmed
hat speaks about New Gokula. It is a place of diversity, an interactive farm
that is not aiming for commercial success but to provide for their needs and a
place where people can come to experience their way of life. He stands in front
of a wall of photographs proudly displaying their cows like a family album,
each with their own name. The cows are supported through a sponsorship program,
individuals may select a cow to support. Their fundamental principal is a
symbiotic relationship with the cows, a sacred animal in Indian culture.
Permaculture shares similar ethics of respect for all living things and the
natural course of nature. “It’s a nice pleasure working with cows and the
|Kaliya with a resident Rooster|
A short walk from the temple is a greenhouse for their sacred Tulsi Ocimum
tenuiflorum, a tropical plant. Often described as Holy Basil, it is
not actually a basil but is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae native to
India. It grows as a many branched sub-shrub, 30–60 cm tall with green or
purple leaves. Traditionally it is used as a medicinal plant and an uplifting
herbal tea. New Gokula uses it as part of their worship, being considered an
elixir of life. They provide plants for Hare Kristna groups in Sydney. Beside
the glass house grows a Neem tree also native to India. It’s used as a
toothbrush by chewing the twigs, the leaves are eaten as greens. It has
significant value as a pest repellent in organic farming practices and for a
wide variety of medicinal uses including as an antiseptic, antifungal,
antihistamine, and insect repellent, in addition to cosmetic uses and cooking.
Down a gravel lane an orchard, and a field of large cabbages and broad beans
that tower above our heads await their harvest. A man with a broad grin and
heavy build stands up from behind a wheel barrow. All the goodness of gardening
is written on his face.
There is another photographer snapping away. His white robes a contrast to the
green pastures. He is eager to chat about photography, where the best places
are at the farm to shoot at each time of day, travel and his family. He came
from Luxemburg, after travelling in his three month university breaks around
Europe and holding slide nights of his photos in cities he visited, sharing his
stories. Now with a wife and child he has settled at the farm only this month,
working as an educator of the Hare Kristna faith. He has settled.
|An elderly cow that doesn't mind all the attention|