Community Supported Agriculture at ISKCON`s Gita Nagari Farm
Gita Nagari in Port Royal, PA, USA is a happening place these days. Aside from running a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for the second year in a row, temple president Dhruva Maharaja Das and his wife Parijata Dasi have also worked with local contractors to totally renovate the former bramacari asrama and turn it into a guesthouse for the visitors.
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement has benefits for both consumers and the farmer. The farmer receives payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and the consumer receives a weekly or bi-weekly delivery of food that has been grown organically and locally. Of course, there is always a certain amount of risk involved, as the farmer does not have control over the weather, which was painfully obvious this spring in Gita Nagari. The super abundant rainfall and rather vicious storms made it impossible for the farmers to plant as usual and the season is behind a bit at this time.
Last year, 160 acres of the 350-acre farm were designated organic. The organic garden takes up approximately half an acre and the rest is used to grow organic hay. For the first time this year the Gita Nagari farmers also have planted 25 acres with corn for distribution to our CSA and to potentially be turned into cornmeal at a local organic flour mill.
During last year’s first CSA season, vegetables and other farm products such as cow dung cones, honey, herb infused ghee, and artisan organic breads were delivered to the Philadelphia temple on a bi-weekly schedule. This year, with the active and encouraging support of Ananda-Vrindavan Dasi, the newly appointed community president of ISKCON Washington DC, the Gita Nagari farm is supplying thirty-five families of the Potomac temple with fresh organic vegetables and medicinal herbs. They would like to expand their delivery radius but find it hard to do because of the small number of devotees living on the farm.
The newly refurbished guesthouse has eight rooms on three floors. All are equipped with either one or two queen size beds as well as other furniture. One of the rooms on the ground floor is handicap accessible and there is a ramp to the front porch for easy access. This is the original farmhouse and still has the same ambiance with the edition of two large new bathrooms (male and female).
Closer to the original asrama the guests will find brand new dormitory style accommodations located across the way from the temple furnished comfortably with new bunk beds and mattresses.