The Seed: Truly a Vegan Experience For Everyone!

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Last week I wrote about The Seed: A Vegan Experience, introducing you to the co-founders and the program advisers. The much-anticipated event took place over the weekend, in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, and it was so huge that it took two vegan warrior women to cover it! My friend Megan Eaton tag-teamed with me so that we could attend as many sessions at the event as possible.

Photo credit: Megan Eaton

This event was hot, hot, hot! On Saturday—the first of the two-day event—the line to gain entry when the doors opened at 10:00 a.m. went around the block. It was a tell-tale sign for the weekend because the official word is security clicked through 3,400 people over two days!

People want to get their vegan on!

The event packed in compassionate vendors, speakers, artists, and food—lots and lots of plant-based food!

The presentations

The line-up of speakers was impressive. The rock stars and pioneers, old and new, of the vegan movement were in the house. Before I had a chance to attend other sessions, I actually had the privilege to moderate and present on the Planting The Seed of Veganism Through Blogging panel with Gena Hamshaw, and Yoli Ouija.

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Most of the presentations we attended were focused on the ethics of veganism, with food and nutrition thrown in for good measure. Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan gave solid tips on how to begin a vegan diet—they have a great “skit” in which they role model how to phone ahead to arrange a vegan meal at a non-vegetarian restaurant. They offered practical tips with great humor and solid information. Colleen Patrick Goudreau engaged the audience—as she always does—by modeling a compassionate way in which to encourage others to eat and live vegan. She had my omnivore husband’s attention when she challenged the myth that humans need meat.

Nick Cooney of Farm Sanctuary offered tools for effective vegan advocacy, including the following: share stories, not statistics; use the cool factor (“everyone’s doing it”); and be relatable. On the topic of raising vegan kids, Michelle Schwegmann tackled the issue many vegans face—having a non-vegan partner. She reminded vegans in the audience that before we were vegan, we were not. She suggested we be as compassionate and as consistent as we would be with our own children.

Jasmin Singer interviewed author Kathy Freston who suggests one “lean” into vegansim, bit by bit.

Photo credit Megan Eaton

Veganism, for Freston, is about attraction (be kind) rather than promotion. She also suggested a very interesting concept in how you decide which animal products to remove from your diet first. She suggests choosing animal products in which there are the least units of suffering—meaning, avoid eggs and chicken first, because more bodies suffer. (I would love to hear what others think of this!)

Professional athletes Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier talked sports nutrition. Roll shared how he changed his life post-40: he shifted from being overweight and eating a poor diet to that a plant-based diet. Brazier gave a nutritional presentation in which he suggested that many athletes skip health and go straight for performance.

Photo credit: Megan Eaton

He believes vegan food is easier for the body to process. which will improve good health and performance. It is more nutrient-dense which allows the body to bounce back faster which means you can train more.

Amie Hamlin of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food talked about great strides being made with youth. The coalition’s vegan recipes have recently been distributed to 14,000 schools nationwide and they are working with kids in classrooms, teaching them to make healthy food. The coalition is also creating curricula to teach healthy choices that provide essential nutrients.

Animal rights activists James E. McWilliams and Jenny Brown captivated the crowd on Sunday afternoon in their respective presentations. McWilliams, a professor at Texas State University, took on the sustainable food movement (and "happy meat" proponents and locavores) and described them as a threat to the vegan movement. He sees the sustainable food movement as having amazing rhetoric, and are appealing and superficially empowering. He said, “We are losing this war and not because we are lacking in protein!” He said we need real change, not symbolic “happy cow” change, and as long as it is okay to eat animals, we will have factory farms. He specifically rebutted the notion that the sustainable food movement is economically sound. He asserts that it can never work as a large-scale option. Even if farming became decentralized, economics would always lead us back to consolidation, which, from a business perspective, is actually more sustainable. No matter what methods are used, if we eat animals, we support the status quo.

Jenny Brown, co-founder and executive director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary said that the work of sanctuaries is important to bring people face to face with animals that they have only known as food. 10 billion farmed animals are killed a year (vastly outpacing animals killed for hunting, fur, etc.).

Photo credit: Megan Eaton

Brown asked, “If we can live happy, healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?” She encouraged the audience to live their values.

This is just a sampling of the vast and solid content offered at The Seed. The organizers outdid themselves!

The Food, The Art, The Vendors

The Seed wasn’t just about educating the veg-curious, veg-skeptical and veg-converted through presentations. Food, art and “stuff” is another great way to increase compassionate awareness. There were food vendors, such as Foodswings, where you could sample a vegan drumstick with blue “cheese” dressing.

There were also vegan food trucks, including local favorite Cinnamon Snail and Mac’n Food Truck, which drove all the way up from Miami for The Seed.

Their garden mac and “cheese” was ridiculously good!

There were artists and film makers, such as Sue Coe and Marisa Miller Wolfson, who shared their creative ways to advocate change for animals through visual art and film.

There were compassionate designers and stores available to share how one could take their veganism beyond the plate, including Vaute Couture

and weekly deal site Vegan Cuts.

The Seed really did deliver a range of experiences—for everyone. I’m ready for The Seed 2.0!

JL Fields writes the blog JL goes Vegan:  Food & Fitness with a side of Kale and is writer/editor of Stop Chasing Skinny.