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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Starting the community | The history of the land | The Cow Department | Changes | The spiritual role of food | The future

Changes

Lots of things have changed, we can’t stop change. [laughs] It’s the nature of the world.

We were just living in that white house, you know, having big festivals. We used to dance up the stairs and the whole place looked like it was about to fall down, We had big parties, you know [laughs]. And we lived quite an austere life for ourselves. But then we realised that growing veges and stuff is not gunna, you know really… there was a growing community, we had so many people wanting to come and live here. And we had no money, so we just had to kind of think, how can we kind of develop the place?

So we had, one devotee came in from Hawaii with this new-fangled thing he had developed over there. And he was, it was on the commercial market, they do sell really good, what are they? They’re candles… right; and there not just normal candles they’re hand carved colourful candles and they look really nice. They look like, you can shape them like pineapples and like fruit like that. We said oh yeah, ok. So he said, “oh look I’ll show you”. So we went out and he had about 5 or 6 candles that he personally made. And he went out and he just sold them. Came out and sold the lot, they were like twenty dollars each and he came back with like $120 or something in one day. And in those days, that was in ’78 or something, that was a lot of money. So we said “ok, let’s go for it”. So we turned downstairs of the white house into a candle, candle factory. And from the people that used to come to the Sunday programme, that were friends right, we started to employ them. First of all they started the work, and then the devotees would go out and sell the candles. And we had about, ah maybe 10 people going out and selling candles and about 15 people making the candles. And every day we were making like 150 candles or something you know: “How many candles did you make today?”

So from those candles over a period of two years (I think they lasted about two years) we collected enough money to actually build… put in most of the infrastructure you see now. Plus the temple…; the temple was built on candles. Like each candle, I remember Surbarbadi used to say, “come on each candle’s a brick. Each candle’s a brick” It was a lot of fun, and the young people in the area, they’d come and they learn all these skills, they’d make the candles.

I used to cook in the 44 gallon drums and they’d also make the candles and the wax would be… there was some electric element they’d put in the wax, we’d buy the wax and would melt it. There was different coloured waxes, and you’d dip the string in each colour; and then the thing would come out hot and have layer of colour. And you’d get a knife and you’d cut the edge of the candle and then with your hands and you’d peel it, twist it, you’d have all these fancies designs and colours. Beautiful candles, and then they’d burn down the middle and then they’d shine, when the candles was burning from the inside, they’d shine, all these colours. So they were really, really, good and they use to sell them at the markets. Everyone just loved them you know. And they were only 10/15 bucks. People would just buy them.

There’s one story, which is a bit macabre, but anyway, this is historical story. They were making the candles and they used to keep on top of the 44 gallon drums, a lid, right. And we had a cat, you know the cat would kinda walk around and all of a sudden the cat jumped up on the lid, the lid tipped up-side-down, the cat fell in the hot wax. And someone said, “get the cat out”, there’s nothing you could do you know… and we kind of pulled the cat out of this hot was tub and then it went solid. You know the poor cat was dead. It died instantly.

And um, yeah, everyone just really loved that cat. But yeah; It was weird ‘cause it just kind of went solid you know. We had to go and bury this solid cat… Like I said it was a bit macabre.

At that stage… we had a stage, about a four year period, three year period where we just got caravans on the place. Started living in caravans as a kind of interim kind of living arrangement. And then we started to build the temple. We didn’t employ anyone. Basically we were all unskilled. Just doing what we could. Learnt as we went along; And that temple you see now on top of the hill is the original temple we built and basically you can just see us: “Oh what can we build? We’ve gotta get something up. You know. We’re getting so many people every Sunday.” So we just built the most simplest structure, just an A- frame, it’s almost like a barn. But we put some nice marble in there and some nice coloured windows, you know, it’s functioned as a temple ever since, for the last 35 years or something.

But now we have plans, the place is changing again. And now we have plans to expand our temple and build a nice cultural proper temple facility, with ah, with ah, um commercial kitchen. Proper commercial kitchen, restaurant, and community hall; and large temple complex. In the same area. So that will be… we’re starting that project this year. We’re starting on the commercial kitchen and the community centre, and the restaurant towards… Well we’re supposed to start this year (it’s almost the end of the year so I’d say the beginning of next year). But by the end of next year that will be all finished. And from then we will go to the main temple complex.

In those days we were unskilled, now we’ve basically learnt so much and also educated ourselves where needed to. And there are so many devotees, like I just live up the road and I’ve just got renovations going on and extensions going on I’m just employing devotees to do it. They’re qualified. Like in Murwillumbah now Hare Krishna people are now, like, they’re all over the place, they’re just part of the community.

What we’ve found with this particular thousand acres called New Govardhana, which we brought in ’77, we came with a particular kind of vision… As I said the vision at those days was from the leader who brought the place, basically on a whim because he gleaned from his spiritual master that; “just grow food – feed people”. You know that’s a basic necessity. So just on that, we, we, he brought a property with this vision, it’s a farm.

Now what’s happened over the years is that it’s just actually evolved, to more than just a farm because, we’ve found that most people living here, there’s probably only 5 per cent of them that are like farming minded. But most people are community… they’re all community minded and they all have different skills, and those skills have come from their own education, their own natural abilities, that it’s like the outer community also. There’s so many different people make up a community, wherever it is and everyone has different skills. So I just don’t call this a farm anymore. It’s basically, we just… that’s why we call it a Hare Krishna community. There’s people here that are into farming, there’s people here into IT, there’s people here into building, there’s people into, you know, whatever you can get into there’s people that have a particular skill set. We encourage anyone to come here and… you know, and utilise their skill set, provided they have an interest in the main function, or main interest of this particular community is the spiritual side, the aspect of devotion to Krishna. So if anyone has that, or a little inkling of that, and we can cultivate that and you can utilise your skills to increase your love for God. That’s basically what our theos is.

Whatever practical skills are needed, and also whatever practical management skills are needed to be put in place to run a proper community, we take advantage of that, but what we do here, we have different departments. We don’t necessarily have everyone making decisions on everything. But we have those that are involved in certain departments make decisions on those particular fields. For example, I’m into agriculture and, and, and cows. And there’s about ten of us that are so we have our meetings, once a month meetings, or once every couple of months meetings, and we make decisions on things; or we discuss things, we communicate like that.

It doesn’t mean that it has to go to a community meeting on every little thing you know. Community meetings here are more like um, information seminars, that everyone from different areas will come together and give reports and maybe get ideas from other sections of the community. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of managing different departments, you leave it up to them. For example, there are priest in the temple that perform all the worship, all the ritual worships and all the festivals that take place. And they are expert at doing that. And I might come up and give my two bobs worth, but what do I know, you know what I mean. So we do have a democratic system but it’s not just ah, it’s refined. You know what I mean.

And then we have, we have another level of… it’s not management, but we have an advisory board. Which, ah… community members which have been around a long time; that don’t have any, necessarily, necessary management clout, but they have, they are respected as advisors, as Elders. So any, you know, hard issues will come up to the advisory board and we’ll try and solve them on that level. And try and get a consensus like that. And then that advisory board can give their advice to a particular persons involved and then they can do with that what they wish. It seems to work. Work well. But management is hard, politics is hard whatever, you know, whatever.

So yeah, it’s evolved as a community, as a real community. It began as like a farm, with an idea let’s just start growing food. As more people came, more skills were seen and recognised and now it’s a real community and we don’t feel that, you know, someone, because that they don’t necessarily have a farming  skill their not allowed to  live here or they, you know. Basically the main central pin that keeps us together is that focus on, that spiritual side.

That’s our common thread. There are many people here that, you know, that if we didn’t have a similar spiritual thread I probably wouldn’t hang out with. Um, not that I don’t like them, but I just, you know how you got good friends and the people you hang with and certain people you don’t hang with, here it is such as varied community, there’s all different types. And, which is good on a sense because it’s an eye opener to allow me to see that there is unity in diversity. If we can all come together at least on one aspect, then we can actually get things done you know. And respect each other’s differences at the same time be unified.

In the old days it was just allot of just young idealistic people, you know looking for answers. I mean that’s still here. The WWOOFer programme is really kind of good in that sense. The WWOOFers that are coming now are like the people that used to come in the old days. And they’re real nice people and looking for things, they’re looking for experiences. They’re open minded and they love coming here and just kind of experiencing, what we, what we have. And you’d be amazed how many people stay for month and months [laughs]. They just stay, you know. And then a lot of them just take up, take up some of our principles. They take that with them, you know.

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