Dispatches from Vida Vegan Con 2011
For three days last weekend, vegan bloggers from all over the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the Vida Vegan Bloggers' Conference. This conference -- the first of its kind -- celebrated the talent, energy, and diversity of the vegan blog community. Though most of the bloggers who attended write about vegan cuisine, the focus of the conference was far broader than food alone. Hot topics included activism, writer’s block, positive blogging, opinionated blogging, nutrition, photography, privacy, and much more. Running beneath it all was a shared passion for animals, health, and the environment.
The organizers of the conference, Jess Scone of Get Sconed, Janessa Philemon-Kerp of Epicurious Vegan, and Michele Truty of Vegtastic Voyage, are veteran vegan bloggers who believed it was high time for the vegan blog community to gather and break (vegan) bread. What better city than Portland, which is known for its robust vegan scene and eco-friendly sensibility?
Among the conference's attendees and presenters were Colleen Patrick Goudreau, author of The Vegan Table, Color me Vegan, and the upcoming 30 Day Vegan Challenge, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Vegonomicon and presiding culinary guru within the vegan culinary world, and Terry Hope Romero, who fuses Latin heritage with vegan cuisine in her book and website Vegan Latina. Sponsors included Coconut Bliss, VegNews Magazine, and Earth Balance. Exhibitors included Daiya vegan cheese, T.O.F.U. Magazine, and the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
The conference featured a wide array of panels and classes. Moskowitz and Susan Voison, author of the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog, joined My Sweet Vegan author Hannah Kaminsky for a photography tutorial. Oregonian columnist Grant Butler moderated a panel on nutrition and diet, which included Ginny Messina, author of The Vegan RD blog, and clinical nutritionist Gena Hamshaw, author of Choosing Raw. Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, author of the radio show and blog The Healthy Voyager, was joined by Our Hen House cofounder Jasmin Singer on a panel about podcasting, while Patrick-Goudreau discussed what it means to live compassionately in her "communication as activism" presentation. Representatives from T.O.F.U. magazine and Peta2 joined in on the activism panel, while VegNews columnist and VeganSaurus writer Laura Beck was among the outspoken voices on the opinionated blogging panel.
Other panels included such provocative themes as "The Accidental Journalist," "Dating and Mating," "The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: Marketing," and "Story-Making & Food Blogging." Throughout the conference, there was a heavy emphasis not only on vegan ethics, but also in writing and the narrative craft.
While these conversations raged, conference attendees had the option of going to off-site cooking demos at the local Whole Foods Market. Fran Costigan, the reigning vegan dessert queen, taught a class on luscious dark chocolate desserts. Kaminsky led a tutorial on vegan meringue, while Joni-Marie Newman, best known as the authority on vegan burgers, whipped up backyard BBQ with a vegan twist. The conference organizers also offered guests a chance to experience Portland firsthand, with tours of the Bob’s Red Mill facility, a screening of the documentary Vegucated, late night shopping at Herbivore and Food Fight, and a late-night wandering to Voodoo Doughnut.
The weekend culminated in food, drink, comedy, music, and an animal-friendly silent auction at the Ambridge Event Center. Proceeds of the silent auction and portions of ticket sales went to benefit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
As the conference drew to a close on Sunday -- and vegan bloggers tearfully prepared to leave each other’s sides -- Moskowitz and Romero addressed the crowd with a few parting thoughts. Both mentioned what a joy it had been to celebrate a shared sense of purpose within the vegan blogging community: to create a more compassionate world for animals and each other. They also noted that, even in this digital age of internet friendships and acquaintances formed on hashtags and jpegs, nothing compares to the power and pleasure of face-to-face conversation. Those of us who were lucky enough to attend Vida Vegan can attest to the value of this long-overdue gathering, and we look forward to reconvening in May 2013.
All images: Gena Hamshaw.