The Seed: A Vegan Experience in New York City June 16 & 17

BlogHer Original Post

VegFests—annual food festivals held to promote veganism, healthy lifestyles and animal rights—abound throughout the country and world. In New York City something a little different is going to take place this weekend. The Seed: A Vegan Experience will launch in trendy SoHo—at the even trendier, and stunning, 82Mercer. This unique conference center and event space host’s diverse happenings ranging from Major League Soccer events to the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival to Jason Wu and Nicole Miller fashion runway shows.

The Seed

The Seed, a new two-day vegan spectacular at the swanky SoHo venue, offering food, education, shopping, and the arts is for the vegan-curious, the vegan-skeptical, and the vegan choir.

How exactly did The Seed grow into such a hot-ticket event?

I sat down with the co-founders to learn more. Media personality Erin Red was born and raised in Toronto and relocated to New York City at the age of 18. After going vegan in 2006 and developing an overwhelming passion for the movement, she established a vegan blog in 2011 and soon after debuted Red Radio, her enlightening and entertaining weekly vegan podcast. Entrepreneur Harvey Fung has been an integral and innovative part of creating some NYC’s most alluring businesses and venues. With 82Mercer, he pays homage to 19th century architecture—details including cast iron columns, 14-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, brick archways, loft-style windows as well as an upper-level Penthouse with an encased glass atrium create an ideal place to hosts some of NYC’s premiere events.

JL: Why The Seed? What inspired you to do this event?

ER: Harvey and I co-founded the event after I invited him and a group of friends from our gym to see Forks Over Knives in the theatre, followed by an incredible vegan dinner. Months later, Harvey approached me about throwing a vegan event at his gorgeous event space in SoHo, 82Mercer, and of course I jumped on the opportunity. Our vision from the very beginning was to create an event like no other—not merely a trade show or conference, but a comprehensive event where vegans, omnivores, skeptics, and the vegan-curious could gather to revel in every aspect of a plant-based lifestyle.

HF: As a martial artist for more than 20 years, I've always been interested in living a healthy lifestyle and finding that balance in life. Muay Thai and The Wat have changed my life in more ways than one. Six years ago I met Erin Red at The Wat; I didn't know much about her except that she was vegan and had endless energy. As she mentioned, I was invited to watch Forks Over Knives and we grabbed a meal afterward. It was a conspiracy and I think the tasty fake duck had something to do with it.

JL: Is there a market for this type of event?

HF: Absolutely. If you look at Google trends and the search for the word "vegan" you'll see that there is steady growth and interest with a spike between 2010 and 2012.

ER: Without question. I sincerely feel we established The Seed at the perfect time. We are approaching a tipping point—"vegan" used to be a dirty word, and now it's proudly promoted, not just within niche communities but everywhere in mainstream media as well. Many celebrities and athletes are going vegan and speaking out on behalf of the lifestyle, and organizations like Mercy For Animals and Compassion Over Killing are doing amazing work to expose the realities of our current system. People are beginning to wake up.

JL: Who is your target audience?

HF: Our target audience is the vegan-curious and health conscious individuals.

ER: The Seed is certainly not just for those who are already enjoying a vegan lifestyle; we heartily encourage the vegan-curious and the vegan-skeptical to come explore all that a plant-based existence has to offer. There's a reason why vegans are so enthusiastic—it is a truly joyful, compassionate, empowering way to live! And yes, the food is incredible, too!

JL: What are your goals? How will you know the event was successful?

HF: The goal is to educate and give individuals the opportunity to make wiser choices. It is not for everyone and that's okay but after they learn the facts I believe it is hard not to change.

ER: The Seed has already been a great success based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback we've received from our partners (BUST Magazine, Yelp, Google, Time Out New York), our charity partners (Mercy For Animals, The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food), and our future partners. Add to that the impressive list of vegan experts and advocates lined up to present at The Seed and it's clear that there is true confidence in our concept. That being said, the underlying goals behind our event include educating attendees on the endless benefits of a plant-based life, introducing people to a myriad of vegan businesses and products, empowering the masses to make choices that are consistent with their values, and benefitting the work of two important charities. Talk about a win-win scenario!

JL: What's the future for The Seed?

ER: Though I may be speaking for myself, I can certainly confirm there will be a few days of rest and recovery post-event! In all seriousness, we very sincerely hope we will have inspired people from all walks of life to further explore and embody all that they learned and experienced at The Seed; we hope that the event stays with them long after the lights go down. Veganism has a way of sticking with folks—you can't unlearn or un-know these things. Ideally, attendees will exit 82Mercer with a newfound vegan-thusiasm that motivates them to make more conscious and compassionate choices in every aspect of their lives. As for the future of The Seed, the team is already in talks for The Seed 2.0 and far beyond. The response is already astounding—stay tuned!

HF: The Seed will continue to spread the word, baby steps...

In addition to speaking with the inspiring co-founders of The Seed, I interviewed two other key members of the team: media dynamos Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, who are advising the programmatic content of the event. Singer and Sullivan are the founders of Our Hen House, a multimedia hub of opportunities to change the world for animals, which was named the 2011 “Indie Media Powerhouse” by VegNews Magazine. They are also the hosts of the popular Our Hen House podcast, which you can find on iTunes. Mariann is a professor of animal law at several law schools throughout NYC and Jasmin is a contributing writer for VegNews, as well as the former Campaigns Manager for Farm Sanctuary.

JL: Veganism is big. How did you decide whom to invite to speak and what topics were most important to address?

Our Hen House (OHH): Veganism is big, both in the sense that more and more people are getting on board, and in the sense that it encompasses so many vitally important issues. We wanted those attending The Seed to hear from the very best the vegan world has to offer, whether the topic is the deliciousness of the food, the health benefits, ending cruelty to animals, the benefits of a vegan diet for athletes, the role of the arts in inspiring compassion, or living on a planet with a viable future.

We also wanted workshops in which people can really learn what they need to know—whether that means cooking delicious vegan food, getting started on your vegan blog (the workshop that will be led by you, JL!), addressing some of the quandaries and joys involved in raising vegan kids, or practicing yoga from a truly compassionate perspective.

JL: What makes The Seed's two-day programming different from a traditional VegFest?

OHH: We love VegFests and we love to see how quickly they are spreading out across the country and bringing in unprecedented crowds eager to learn about vegan living. The Seed builds on the wonderful work that they are doing and takes things to a new level—with more speakers, more topics, more workshops, more films. We’re able to do that not only because it will run for a full weekend, but because of the extraordinary venue at 82Mercer, right in the heart of Manhattan’s fashionable SoHo. This beautiful 25,000 square foot space allows us to have three separate stages in operation and also has the high-tech capacity to make everything work to a T, while maintaining a people-friendly space. There’s also an arts component, allowing the attendee the full vegan immersion experience. We’ll be graced by the beautiful music of cellist Elizabeth Glushko, and several artists will be featuring their animal-themed work. We’re also so excited that we will be joined by the Bust Magazine Vegan Craftacular, which will bring so many innovative, artistic individuals selling their wares, all vegan of course.

JL: You mention an arts component. I have been to a lot of VegFests and this seems to be an element that makes The Seed stand out. Is this intentional?

OHH There are so many different ways to spread the word and the inspiration, and it’s so important to take advantage of visual communication, as well as verbal. This has been the year of the vegan film, and we’ll be lucky enough to be able to screen the very best of the crop Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead have all been wowing audiences and winning awards around the country, at festivals and conferences. We’re so excited that all three of them will be showing at The Seed. And Lunch Hour will actually make its New York premiere right here at The Seed. What more important topic is there than reforming the school lunch program, and getting healthy food into our children’s meals? This film will shock you and motivate you.

The arts are a growing area of focus for those who are interested in moving the world in a more compassionate direction. We are so excited to have a presentation by Sue Coe, an extraordinary visual artist. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Coe’s depiction of “the meat industry, which she turns into an all-encompassing symbol of enslavement, exploitation and cruelty... is powerful stuff.”

JL: I know that you both will be presenting at The Seed. What can we expect from your session?

OHH: Our presentation is called “Think Vegan: Ten Tips to Get You Started.” First and foremost, we hope to have a lot of fun. But we also want to help people who are toying with the idea of going vegan, or adding more vegan foods to their diet or, if they’re already vegan, thinking about how to help other people make the transition. So we’ve put together what we consider our top ten tips for going vegan, dealing with everything from knowing your stuff, to finding great food everywhere, to dealing with pushback.

Many thanks to Erin, Harvey, Jasmin and Mariann for sharing insights in what you can expect this weekend in SoHo.

Food talks and edibles from upscale eatery Blossom and high-end raw dining Pure Food and Wine and cutting-edge merchants and foods such as BluePrintCleanse and the “Faux Gras” paté from The Regal Vegan will most certainly bring attendees in the door, but it is the diversity of leading vegan experts that will introduce the concepts of veganism, from health to animal rights. Speakers include medical doctors Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. John A. McDougal, champion endurance athletes Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, animal rights activists Jenny Brown and James McWilliams, as well as professional chefs, nutritionists, health counselors, vegan bloggers, and award-winning movie producers.

What do I hope to experience at The Seed? Well, I am a vegan blogger and happen to be moderating the panel Planting The Seed of Veganism Through Blogging Saturday morning, and I can’t wait to lead the conversation with Gena Hamshaw and Yoli Ouija. After that, it’s all about the ethics of veganism for me. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, James McWilliams and Jenny Brown are true leaders in living a compassionate lifestyle and connecting veganism to the animals. Okay, it’s about the food, too. I know that food is activism so I cannot wait to see what Fran Costigan and Juan Pablo Chavez cook up in the demo rooms.

Care to join me? To purchase tickets in advance, go to www.TheSeedEperience.com and click on “tickets.” A one-day pass is $20.00, and a two-day pass is $30.00. Tickets at the door will be $25.00 for a one-day pass, or $35.00 for both days. Enter discount code FB10 for 10 percent off the registration fee!

The Seed: A Vegan Experience – Two Full Days of Vegan Immersion
Sat.  June 16th, 10am – 7pm
Sun. June 17th, 10am-5pm
82MERCER
82 Mercer St., 2nd Floor (Spring & Broome Streets.)
New York City, NY 10012

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

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