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5 Things I Learned About Veganism

VN columnist Gena Hamshaw discovers what’s hot in the world of veganism at the first annual Seed conference in NYC.

On Sunday, June 17, I had the privilege of attending The Seed, a vegan lifestyle event in Manhattan. Hosted at 82 Mercer, a sleek event space in the heart of Soho, The Seed was dedicated to sharing information about vegan living and to celebrating our ever-expanding community. The event featured more than 80 vendors, presentations from 17 experts, including health practitioners, athletes, chefs, and activists, three film screenings, performance art, yoga, seven cooking demonstrations, and much more. Amidst all of the excitement, it was hard to distill favorites, but here are five lessons about veganism that I took away from the conference.

1. It’s growing. At 10am, the line for The Seed, which started on Mercer Street, had wrapped around to Broome Street. For the next few hours, the wait to enter the building was about 40 minutes long, and everyone who came persisted anyway: a testament to how badly people wanted to be a part of this special event. Throughout the day, the space remained jam-packed, the food vendors flooded with eager diners and the craft hall full of shoppers. We know that the vegan community is growing, but it’s still a wonderful surprise to see the sheer volume of people whose lives are touched by a compassionate message.

2. It’s more delicious than ever. From chocolate-dipped mulberries to vegan mac 'n' cheese, green smoothies to vegan drumsticks, and raw macaroons to red velvet cupcakes, The Seed showcased the very best in vegan cuisine today. I was blown away by the range of what was offered, from raw fare and gluten-free eats to old-fashioned vegan comfort food. Vendors included Terri Organic, a fantastic lunch spot and juice destination in the Flatiron district; The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan and organic food truck; New York’s stellar and unparalleled raw food mecca, Pure Food and Wine; the incredible Candle Cafe; and various purveyors of vegan chocolate. Perhaps most beloved among these vendors was the incredible Mac'n food truck—a vegan mac and cheese truck that had driven all the way up from Miami to NYC for the conference.

3. It’s healthy. Between the screening of Marisa Miller Wolfson’s Vegucated—a documentary in which three New Yorkers learn to improve their quality of life through plant-based diet—the many booths selling nutritional DVDs, and the choice of keynote speaker, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The Seed was a wonderful place to learn about the connections between plant-based food and good health. Audience members with health questions had the chance to interact with Fuhrman, as well as with Ulka Agarwal, MD, from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a clinical nutritionist (yours truly), and the energetic and tireless Michael Greger, MD, director of nutrition for the Humane Society of the United States. It’s never been easier to be a healthy vegan, and events like The Seed are proof.

4. It’s active. If you’ve ever had a pushy personal trainer try to persuade you that vegans can’t be athletes, you now have more fodder than ever to set the record straight. The Seed boasted numerous vegan protein powders and snack bars, a Vitamix demo station with healthy green smoothies to help aid in recovery, and presentations from Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, two of the country’s top elite athletes. Both speakers’ presentations focused on the power of plant foods to fuel performance.

5. It can start with you. One of the day’s most dynamic presentations was from Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, the women behind the activist nonprofit Our Hen House. Jasmin and Mariann are constantly reminding us we’re all capable of becoming activists: we simply need to put our personal passions and strengths to use. Whether you’re a chef, an athlete, a physician, a filmmaker, an artist, a student, or a blogger, you can use your talent to show people that the vegan lifestyle is vital and rewarding. Sharing a vegan cupcake or macaroon may feel like a small act to you, but it could be the gift that helps another person to embark on a vegan journey. Plant a seed today, and watch it grow tomorrow: that’s what this celebration was all about.

Gena Hamshaw is a pre-med student, clinical nutritionist, and VegNews columnist. Find more of her work at choosingraw.com.

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