Apr 27, 2007

A life that revolves around cows

Watford Observer (UK)
April 27, 2007

Life at Bhaktivedanta Hare Krishna Manor revolves around the cows.

The bovine beasts are not only unforgettable due to their size, but are also remarkable because the farm, and indeed the manor, is completely dependent on them.

The farm at the manor, home of the UK's Hare Krishna movement, in Letchmore Heath, is one of only a few in the country that keeps cows and bulls for life. However, it is the only farm that is also completely dependant on animals for power.

Whether it is ploughing and cultivating the fields, planting potatoes or generating power in the barns, the farm relies totally on the huge oxen, which each weigh well over a tonne, to pull the machinery.

"Our whole day revolves around getting the bulls out into the fields", Shyamasundara das, or "Shyam", farm manager at Bhaktivedanta said.

"So if a bull gets sick, we are in trouble. But once they are born here, they pass away here. We start working them when they are three, and then work them until 13, 14 or 15 years old when we retire them."

Shyam is currently waiting on a decision from Hertsmere Borough Council on plans to move the herd of more than 40 cows and bulls out of their existing timber accommodation and into new buildings.

Despite a council officer's recommendation to approve the construction of new barns, a milking parlour and dairy in an adjacent field, the decision was deferred by Bushey and Aldenham Planning Committee earlier this month.

Nevertheless, the five workers at the farm are currently in the process collecting 15 tonnes of potatoes from the fields - enough to supply the manor with potatoes for an entire year.

The farm also produces cabbages, spinach, pumpkins and other vegetables, while the cows are manually milked twice a day and currently provide around 40,000 litres, or 80,000 pints, of milk a year.


Apr 15, 2007

3 resign at Ave Maria

Jennifer Brannock
Naples News
April 15, 2007

Ave Maria officials confirmed three members of the school's admissions department opted not to return to the school for fall semester.

Officials would not confirm the names of the three staff members, but posters on an Ave Maria watchdog site, www.avewatch.com, reported Assistant Director of Admissions Erin Flaherty, Admissions Counselor Rose DeCaro and team member John Gordon resigned.

John Sites, vice president of academic affairs at Ave Maria, said the resignations came as a surprise but he supports his staff, who will work through June.

"I respect the individual decisions they have made," Sites said. "If that's something they wish to do, I understand there were personal decisions attached to all three."

Sites would not comment on what reasons the resigning staff members gave for leaving.

"Out of respect for the people involved, I won't divulge that information," he said.

Sites confirmed Admissions Director Rich Dittus will be transferred to another department in the coming months. Sites would not say what role Dittus will assume, nor why he is being moved.

"In keeping with his goals, and with our vision, we felt the move was best," Sites said.

Sites confirmed Avewatch reports that Ave Maria is considering hiring an outside consulting firm to help recruit students.

The Rev. John Michael Beers, dean of the pre-theologate and associate professor of classics and early Christian literature, said about 320 undergraduate students attend Ave Maria. Beers said administrators hoped to have between 500 and 600 students this year.

Some Avewatch insiders reported the resignations may have been tied to the firing and immediate re-hiring/demotion of the Rev. Joseph Fessio last month. Bloggers on the Web site speculated Fessio may have been demoted, due to the low turnout and retention rate of students at the school.

Ave Maria officials will not grant interviews with the media regarding Fessio's dismissal and re-hiring. Officials refer media members to a previously released statement, calling the firing a result of "irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices."

Bloggers on Avewatch and another popular Web site critical of Ave Maria, www.fumare.blogspot.com, aren't buying it.

The most popular and often repeated theory surrounding Fessio's firing continues to be his statement made in the California Catholic Daily newspaper two days before his firing. Fessio called homosexuality a genetic disorder, and favored genetic tampering to remove the disorder, which is strongly opposed by many Catholics.

New speculations have cropped up among Ave Maria insiders, regarding Fessio's dismissal. Former Ave Maria College Dean of Students Chris Beiting said there was a constant power struggle between Fessio and President Nick Healy during their time at the college in Michigan.

Though he is no longer affiliated with the school, Beiting said several students have contacted him, complaining about the tension and mistrust circulating throughout the campus, and the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that exists.

"I think what started off as interesting and noble has become a cult," Beiting, a self-described devout Catholic, said. "There's a climate of fear there, and an inability to ask questions."

Kate Ernsting, former public relations director for Ave Maria College, said there were distinct differences between Fessio and Healy's visions for running the school.

"I think there has always been an understanding that the school was being run like a closed corporation, and you just can't do that," Ernsting, also a Catholic, said.

"My experience with Father Fessio is that his vision was more collegial, and he has an understanding that everyone had to be part of things."

A Catholic Web site, www.angelqueen.org, reported Fessio's firing may have been related to an incident with two students, referred to in the posting as "Casey and Frank."

Angelqueen reported: the two students attended a university-sponsored retreat in New Mexico last month, and were asked to participate in absurd rituals. When they complained, the students were sent back to Florida, and administrators attempted to expel them from school.

Fessio stood in the way of the expulsions, and was penalized with the firing, Angelqueen reported.

Fessio has said in previous interviews that he does not know why he was fired, but that cooperation with the media may have been a factor.