The 2nd Annual Sonoma County Vegfest has been such a success over the last two years that they have already outgrown the Finley Community Center located in Santa Rosa and are on the search for a bigger and better venue for 2016! Over 1500 people attended the celebration of compassion this year – 500 more than just last year! There were almost 60 vendors, cooking demonstrations, presentations, animal rights information, the screening of Speciesism, a Kid’s Corner and of course, tons of vegan food to eat! With just a small $5 attendance fee and children under 13 free, it opened the event up to everyone!
As I am sure you are too, I am noticing more and more VegFests and similar vegan events popping up all over the country including our neighboring county Sonoma just over the mountain. Hint, hint Napa – with all of the information out there about the horrors of Factory Farming, the negative health consequences of eating a diet loaded with saturated fat, and the solid fact that the production of animals for meat is destroying our planet, it is time to pay attention. The plant based movement is not going away but growing bigger and stronger every day! Just like so many of my fellow vegans, this festival made me feel right at home. I was able to connect (and reconnect) with others that feel the same way as I do so that I could recharge and keep up the good (nonviolent) fight! Some really exciting news I heard about the SoCo Veg Fest is that of the 1500 who attended half of them eat meat and two-thirds are ovo-lacto vegetarian. But they are curious in learning more and making changes. And being surrounded by good people, great information and delicious food helps in making change!
After attending the Taste of Napa earlier this summer and having only a few vegan choices, I was really excited and ready to eat every tasty vegan treat I could find. And, oh boy, did I! Some of my favorite vendors were at the Vegfest again this year.
Miyoko Schinner and her team from Miyoko’s Kitchen were serving her incredible nut based artisan cheeses. I’ve been eating a plant based diet now for almost 8 years and am still just amazed by the improvements in the dairy free cheeses now available. Just 5 years ago when I made the change from ovo-lacto vegetarian to vegan, the cheese alternatives were so bad that I chose not to eat them. But now, Miyoko’s cheeses are so delicious and authentic they will easily satisfy all of your friends – vegan and non-vegan alike!
V-dog was there again showing dog guardians that their four legged family members can eat a healthy vegan diet too. V-dog’s kibble is corn, wheat and soy free and is made in the U.S. In fact, I met Linda Middlesworth, co-owner of V-dog, several years ago at Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals and my dogs have been vegan ever since. It is such a comfort to know that my dogs are eating compassionate and healthy food. And they absolutely love all of the fruits, vegetables and grains that I have added to their diet so they have a little variety!
Sjaak’s Organic Chocolate is located in Petaluma and makes the most amazing organic vegan chocolates and candy bars. My absolute favorite are their Eli’s Earth Bars – vegan, organic, fair trade and the best candy bars I have ever had! Sjaak’s also gives back 5% of every sale to non-profit charitable organizations that benefit children so children can embrace what matters – joy, peace and delight! I definitely brought a few of the Earth Bars home with me to share with my husband.
I was also delighted to see Muir’s Tea Room back for the second year. They were still working on opening their new vegan tea room in Sebastopol when I met them at the Vegfest last year. Now they are open and thriving! They were inspired by Scottish conservationist John Muir and opened their tea room in December 2014 in downtown Sebastopol in a historic Victorian home. Offering a delightful respite, they serve the traditional Scottish/English high tea service with tiered racks of finger sandwiches, petit fours, scones, fairy cakes, pastries and a pot of tea. They also offer lunch items that include sandwiches, salads with homemade dressings and 2 house made soups daily. They proudly use the freshest ingredients, local and organic whenever possible! I am absolutely mad for cupcakes and theirs are some of the best. In fact, I had 2 while wandering the Vegfest!
Animal Place’s Vegan Republic specialty store was also there selling vegan groceries, accessories and skin care products!I happily ran into my friend Carol Treacy. Carol is the author of Vegan Cowboy. Mirroring her own life in many ways, the story takes place in Petaluma and is about a 50-something woman wanting to expose factory farming and finally following her own intuition.
I learned about Citizen Fox last October at Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals event in San Francisco. While they continue working to find their own bricks and mortar restaurant, they currently offer pop-up brunch and dinner. I was happy to see them serving their delicious food at the Fest. In fact, someone walked past be with a vegan corndog and I would not rest until I found out where they got it. The line at Citizen Fox was already getting long even though the Vegfest had just begun. I ordered my corndog and enjoyed every last bite of it!
I also met a couple new vendors this year – as I mentioned before, I am crazy for cupcakes. In fact, the only thing that will lure me away from a vegan cupcake is a vegan yeast raised doughnut! Well, my husband Steve is a cookie monster! And since he was stuck at work all day I promised myself I would find him some yummy cookies. And with the help of My Sweetheart Wife’s Vegan Kitchen I found Steve a ginger and chocolate chip cookie. He was very happy! I also had my first scoop of peanut butter nice cream from Subzero. Subzero is located in Sebastopol and has no freezers in their store. They mix each order individually by hand and freeze with liquid nitrogen! Because each order is custom made, they are able to offer whatever you want…vegan, gluten free, etc. This vegan ice cream was exactly what I remember about ice cream before I gave up dairy. Creamy, smooth and amazing. I was really blown away!
The screening of Speciesism: The Movie was available for everyone to view. The director Mark Devries set out to explore the hidden factory farms that modern farms continue to try to keep secret. Mark Devries takes the viewers on a sometimes funny, sometimes frightening adventure from crawling through the bushes that hide the factories, flying above the toxic manure lagoons and sometimes coming face to face with those who have most at stake in keeping us in the dark!
There were many wonderful speakers this year including Priya Sawhney, the lead international organizer and investigator for Direct Action Everywhere. She discussed the importance of open rescue and also the findings of a recent investigation and rescue that exposed shocking cruelty at a “humane” Whole Foods farm. Priya discussed how DxE’s campaigns have provoked public consciousness and inspired nonviolent direct action in over 95 cities and 20 countries.
Dr. Ulka Agarwal is a board certified physician who specializes in psychiatry, nutrition and integrative medicine. She is currently the Lead Physician at Cal State University East Bay where she developed and leads a weekly employee wellness program on plant-based nutrition. She also worked with Dr. Neal Barnard for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine researching the effects of plant-based diets on chronic illness and mental health. She shared her findings on the relationship between plant-based food and mood. She leads a vegan lifestyle and believes that every living being deserves a life of dignity and respect.
Mark Hawthorne, author of Bleating Hearts, discussed compassionate choices, the truth behind animal exploitation and how we can all make a difference. Offering a very empowering talk, he discussed a wide variety of simple methods for putting compassion into action for animals.
Jack Norris, registered dietician and Executive Director of Vegan Outreach, discussed the research that has been done on vegans, rates for common chronic disease and the specific nutrients we need. Vegan Outreach promotes individual outreach through distribution of booklets on campuses through an Adopt a College program. Jack has also co-written Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet.
Best-selling author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau offered an inspiring, entertaining and informative lecture with responses to everything from “I don’t have time to chop vegetables” and “I tried to be vegetarian but I craved meat” to “I could give up everything, except cheese” and “Vegans don’t get enough protein”. She is an acclaimed speaker and beloved host of the inspiring podcast, “Food for Thought,” which was voted Favorite Podcast by VegNews magazine readers. Colleen shares her message of compassion and wellness on national and regional TV programs, including the Food Network, CBS, PBS, and FOX. Interviews with her have been featured on NPR, U.S. News and World Report, and The Chicago Tribune, and her recipes have been featured on Epicurious.com and Oprah.com. Colleen is a regular contributor to National Public Radio.
I have to make an “Honorable Mention” to the Ugliest Cake I have ever seen! This cake was entered into the Sonoma County Fair’s “Ugliest Cake Contest”. Though the baker was allowed to enter the cake, they refused to display it on the table with the other contestants. They were unable to give him a reason why but the Vegfest was happy to let it be shared with others. I have known about the ugly truth of factory farming for a long time and am no longer able to look away from it. However, not everyone is able to look these truths in the eye quite yet!
The Sonoma County Vegfest earned an A+ from me this year. The food was amazing and plentiful, there were many animals rights’ groups offering powerful information, vegan goods available to purchase (I got a couple t-shirts!), awesome speakers and demonstrations plus a wonderful energy of compassion. Santa Rosa is just an hour from Napa and well worth the drive. Absolutely an experience you don’t want to miss! I look forward to seeing you there next year! Thanks for joining me on my tour of summer festivals. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!