Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary Grand Opening

Mark and Dini with their daughter

Meet Mark Opsahl and Dini Pederson-Opsahl, the owners, co-founders, and operators of Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary, Minnesota’s newest farm sanctuary. Located in Underwood, MN, the sanctuary is devoted to providing a caring home to their residents through rescue, adoption, and education.

Established in 2017 as a microsanctuary, Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary quickly grew in size and is now home to 18 chickens, 6 ducks, and 3 cows.

What is a microsanctuary? A microsanctuary is a space that works to rescue animals on a smaller scale than larger sanctuaries. The Microsanctuary Resource Center (MRC) began the Microsanctuary Movement, outlying a set of core values and practices that many microsanctuary owners agree with, including:

  • practicing ethical veganism
  • rejecting the idea of “humane” animal husbandry and exploitation
  • no breeding residents
  • maintaining an environment of respect and collective liberation

Mark and Dini strive to honor their grandparents while evolving the lessons they learned from them––Dini was raised in Minneapolis by her grandparents, while Mark was raised in a farming community. Dini’s grandmother was the first female animal control officer in the United States and an active advocate for marginalized and underrepresented groups in the country while Mark’s grandfather and father were both lifelong farmers.

When we met, I told Mark I loved animals,” said Dini, “but neither of us were vegan.”

Mark and Dini became vegan shortly after moving back onto his family’s farm. “I always wanted chicken companions, and I told him let’s get some chickens,” said Dini. She quickly went vegan after adopting the chickens, recalling, “Once we got them and fell in love with them, it didn’t feel right that we were eating chicken.” Mark went vegan shortly after her.

They began to look for additional opportunities to help farmed animals, which lead them to explore expanding the work they were already doing––to provide a safe living and rehabilitation space for more animals.

They decided to honor and evolve their family’s legacies, continuing the farm in Mark’s grandfather’s name and giving it a new life and purpose as Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary.

Starting a sanctuary has not been without its ups and downs. They’ve received some pushback from local farmers and family about starting a sanctuary in Underwood.

“We’ve also had a number of friends who have reached out to us with questions about turning vegan themselves,” said Dini, adding that they’ve also answered a number of questions about starting sanctuaries. “We’ve been really trying to help mentor a few people.”

Dini’s advice for someone looking to start a sanctuary? Know your limits and start small. “Make sure you can do it yourself,” says Dini. “If you can take in one chicken and do it in an apartment or home, start with that and do that. I really am an advocate for microsanctuaries. Take in a chicken or two as a rescue and learn their needs really well and grow from there.”

Starting small adds up to a big difference, especially for the lives of rescued animals who no longer live their lives in constant fear and pain.

The sanctuary’s grand opening is this Saturday, October 20th from 12:00pm – 3:00pm. They’ve invited up a number of vegan Twin Cities-based businesses as well as some local to Underwood that are willing to try their hand at veganizing some fall favorites. 

Admission is free, donations are appreciated. All donations made will go directly towards supporting their residents this winter. Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary is located at 26329 County Highway 35 in Underwood, MN 56586. For more information, visit their Facebook event page or their website.

Meet Our New Board Member – Lucia Skinner De Gregorio

CAA welcomes Lucia Skinner De Gregorio to our board of directors. Learn more about Lucia and how she got involved with speaking out for animals and CAA below.

Lucia is passionate about raising awareness about the cruelty and injustices perpetrated against nonhuman animals. With a spirit of ethical stewardship and service, Lucia hopes to work toward inspiring a more empathetic and mindful society. In her past board role with MN Women’s Consortium, she focused on outreach and strategy and served on a special committee alongside their Executive Director focusing on the development of the Young Women’s Advisory team and organizing their meetings.

Lucia has also been an active volunteer at Spring Farm Sanctuary. She initially became involved with them as a farm hand. She is now a tour guide and part of their marketing team. She also has event planning experience and is excited to become more involved with the Twin Cities animal advocacy community!

Lucia initially connected with empathy, compassion, and mindfulness being at the center of CAA’s mission. “I love that CAA is intentional in its outreach and, in doing so, careful to not create an atmosphere that is non-inclusive,” said Lucia, adding, “I believe that there is always room for growth and improvement where inclusivity in an organization is concerned, and it can be commonplace within the vegan community for it to be taken for granted. I would love the see veganism embraced and recognized as accessible to all.”

Lucia and Margie (one of her Spring Farm friends)

Raising awareness in the general public about animal cruelty is certainly high on the priority list. Lucia believes that one of the largest obstacles the animal advocacy movement faces is speciesism or the idea that humans are inherently more valuable than any other species, and that awareness itself of the violence perpetrated against nonhuman animals does not necessarily guarantee change.

Speciesism has brought about the devastating degradation we have inflicted on our planet and on other living beings. “I’ve always viewed the endeavor to resolve injustices to be one best attempted by treating a problem at its source. To me, the injustices we experience within our own species (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, etc) are problems built upon the foundation of hierarchical thinking, which is embedded in our cultural––referring specifically to Western/American here––psyche in the shape of humans being inherently superior to non-humans,” said Lucia. “I genuinely believe that if we can humbly and lovingly spread the word that we humans are a part of, rather than apart from nature––we can begin to see a shift in our treatment of said nature.

Lucia loves connecting with others, building community and mutual support, and bridging divides through humility, empathy, and love. Her greatest desire is to do work that protects and defends animals, and she believes that her life’s trajectory will reflect a pursuit of that.

Lucia with Mona

She cares deeply about intersectional thinking and recognizing that the inequalities and injustices we know within our own species are deeply interconnected with those which exist at an interspecies level.

In her free time, Lucia enjoys writing and spending time with Mona the dog. We are thrilled to have Lucia serving as our newest board member. If you see her at an upcoming outreach or community event, be sure to say hello!

Interested in joining CAA’s board of directors? Our board meetings are open to prospective members. If you are interested in attending a board meeting, email board@exploreveg.org to find out when the next board meeting will take place.

Trio Plant-based Opens in Minneapolis

After starting out with pop-up sales featuring their takes on lasagna, mac and cheeze, burgers, ranch dressing, and more in 2017, Trio Plant-based moved into their space at 610 W Lake Street in Minneapolis to start serving up plant-based comfort food daily this September.

Founded by Louis Hunter and Sarah and Dan Woodcock, the new plant-based restaurant is featuring a grand opening menu that includes comfort food classics like Grilled Cheeze with Tomato soup, House Salad with Trio Ranch, Spaghettrios (their veganized take on SpaghettiOs), and other mouth-watering choices.

Trio’s most popular dish is their Soul Food Platter, where you can combine three, four, or five items together for dinner. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on this,” said Sarah of their signature dish featuring Herbivorous Butcher smoky house ribs, a macaroni and cheeze recipe that Sarah worked on perfecting for over six years, cornbread with maple butter, sweet potatoes, and a recipe for collard greens from Louis’ family. “It’s definitely unique. There’s not a lot of soul food in Minnesota for vegans.”

Sarah said her real passion for cooking came after she became vegan. “I could always cook, but my interest developed after I became vegan because I still wanted the same foods, I just didn’t want to eat animal products or use them in any way anymore. Cooking became being about veganizing dishes and seeing how I can make them taste at least as good or better than they did before.”

Aside from deli ham and ribs from the Herbivorous Butcher, everything Trio has on their menu is house-made. The trio used their pop-ups as a testing ground to find out which dishes to serve at their restaurant and also hired on a number of people who helped them during this time to continue working at their permanent location.

If you asked Dan and Sarah if they were working toward opening a restaurant a couple of years ago, you would have likely gotten a ‘no,’ but not from Louis, who had been interested in starting a food truck. “A restaurant was never on my radar,” said Sarah of their start.

Dan, Sarah, and Louis standing in their restaurant

The three met in 2016 while fighting charges Louis was given after attending a Black Lives Matter protest for a black man who was murdered by the police. After the charges were dropped, three decided to build their futures together to open Minneapolis’ first plant-based restaurant owned primarily by people of color.

“We were talking about doing a food truck during the Super Bowl and that if Dan and I were involved we’d want it to be vegan. It wasn’t until we were advised by a business consultant that we seriously considered a brick and mortar restaurant. It was something we thought, ‘Oh maybe down the road if the food truck goes really well,’ but we never really set out to do a restaurant.”

The team ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to get their business started, raising over $10,000 more than their $50,000 goal with 600 individual backers from around the world. Behind the counter at their restaurant, they have a column that recognizes some of their Kickstarter backers.

The team credits working with business consultants Nekima Levy Armstrong and Marques Armstrong of Black Pearl as another part of their successful campaign. “Nekima and Marques were instrumental with helping us reach and succeed our goal. They provided really amazing direction and consulting strategy for our Kickstarter campaign.”

“It’s been exciting to take ideas and values and put them into practice. Once you start living and integrating those values into what you do, people respond really well. I’ve been actually really surprised by how many people really are hungry for change and are willing to support it.”

Trio’s Grand Opening Menu features classic veganized comfort foods

Together, their restaurant reinforces that plant-based food is for everyone and that you do not have to be vegan to own a vegan business. (Dan and Sarah have been vegan for over 6 years while Louis is not––but eats a lot of plant-based foods and confirms when a new veganized dish is a hit.) They look to serve the intersecting plant-based, plant-curious, and foodie communities alike.

“The commitment to the principle of veganism is the same and it’s just a matter of welcoming people to explore the concepts, learn that plant-based eating can be nutritious and delicious, and getting people comfortable with the type of cooking and meals and to know that you can be full and happy [after a vegan meal],” said Sarah of their business.

Their business is another addition to the shifting tide in the Twin Cities where plant-based cuisine is gathering steam. Sarah believes that increasing access for the ability to live vegan on many levels is really important, not just for the individual but on a broader level. “So many of the issues going on today could be at least somewhat alleviated by the transition to plant-based living.”

In the future, Sarah, Dan, and Louis plan to host events and fundraising days at the restaurant that support nonprofits and other groups that reflect and champion their community values. “Our two most prominent values are our commitment to racial justice and to being vegan,” said Sarah. “So often there are people that support one cause over the other but there’s a lot of people that support both. I think the most surprising thing has been how many people have been supportive of what we are doing. Even if they’re not vegan yet, they’re open and are drawn to plant-based ideas for some reason.”

Their current hours are 5-10pm Sunday through Thursday nights and 5-11pm Friday and Saturday nights. They are open for to-go orders as well and plan to add lunch, breakfast, and beer and wine service in the future. Check back on their website for more updates about their open and keep a lookout on our events page for a dine-out at Trio!

Volunteer Shoutout: Meet Haley!

Meet Haley Hastings, the president of the Compassionate Action for Animals student group at Augsburg University (also known as CAA Augsburg Vegan Club). Haley is a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies major from New York state working towards graduate school in social work. When she’s not advocating for animals, you might find her gardening or playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Haley found out about CAA through the Augsburg chapter last summer. After being vegan for seven years, she was drawn to joining the group by more opportunities to be a vegan activist. “I’d never really done any activism besides telling my friends and family about what happens in farms, so it seemed like a really good way to make a difference in something that really mattered to me,” said Haley.

Her favorite volunteering memories are from working pay-per-view and hearing people say that they planned to go vegan that day after viewing the video. “It’s incredible to me to be able to affect the life of that person in just a few minutes, and to help all of the animals they would’ve eaten otherwise.”

As president of the new chapter, Haley is focused on growing the group this year and increasing awareness and recognition of the club. The group plans to focus on a few key events this semester in addition to an ongoing discussion about adhering to a vegan lifestyle, including food giveaways around Halloween and finals week. They also are looking to organize a fall farm sanctuary trip.

One of her favorite things about the Augsburg group is the community space it provides for new and established vegans alike. “One member of my group has felt very isolated because she didn’t know any other vegans before coming to the club,” said Haley. “It’s good to have a sense of community.”

The Augsburg group was formed spring 2018. Its tight-knit group ties their veganism back to the animals and invites all (vegan and non-vegan alike) who are curious about plant-based living and animal rights.

This spring, they plan to become involved with the Augsburg Environmental Fair and increase their presence at other campus events. Haley looks for opportunities to connect the Augsburg group with other CAA events and volunteer opportunities outside their chapter.

She is proud of her group and looks forward to its future possibilities. “I’m really grateful for both Augsburg and CAA. They’ve both been incredibly helpful and supportive in setting up this new club and I’m really excited to see where it leads.”

If you’re a college student in the Twin Cities looking to become involved with one of our CAA student groups, visit our campus page to learn more. (High school students are welcome, too!) Weekly meetings have started up for this fall semester, and we have other upcoming volunteer opportunities listed here.

Fall on Campus: What’s Going On?

A food giveaway at Augsburg University

Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) is fortunate to have not one, but two student chapters in the Twin Cities. The chapters at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University campuses have fast become hubs for more peer-to-peer advocacy. Fun fact: the two campuses happen to be anchored around the Hard Times Cafe, a local vegan and vegetarian restaurant.

We connected with Marina Kirkeide, chair of the University of Minnesota chapter and Haley Hastings, chair of the Augsburg University chapter to learn about how their groups are doing and what they have planned for this fall semester.

“Overall, our group is doing pretty well. We have about 12 really consistent members right now with more that come and go a bit, but you can do a lot of events with 12 people participating,” said Marina. “I think most members are here because they want support with their lifestyle, but most came to that lifestyle because of the animals and a smaller portion for health and environmental reasons.”

The Augsburg group is newer than the University of Minnesota group, having started spring 2018. “One member of my group felt very isolated because she didn’t know any other vegans before coming to the club,” said Haley. “It’s good to have a sense of community.” Members of the small but strong group went vegan for the animals and invite all (vegan and non-vegan alike) who are curious about plant-based living and animal rights.

Both prioritize making their groups a safe, inclusive space for all members to learn, grow, and explore compassionate, plant-based living together in their roles as chapter chair.

“Our group has some staple events like pay-per-view, food giveaway, bake sale, and dine-outs but I think the real point is just having a place to meet with like-minded people every week,” said Marina about the University of Minnesota chapter. “A lot of people do not get much support or help from friends and family when they become vegan or vegetarian, so it’s nice to have a place to share experiences whether that be venting or small victories. My favorite thing about the group is definitely the friendships I have made and seen other people make.”

In the past year at the University of Minnesota, the biggest change has been that meetings have become a lot more focused on activities for students and less on the planning of events. The majority of the planning is instead done by students in leadership roles, enabling other members to focus on being present at their advocacy events.

“In addition to two food giveaways and a planned farm sanctuary trip, I’d love for the club to be involved with the spring environmental fair at Augsburg,” said Haley. “I’m mainly focused on growing the group and making people aware of us.”

The existence and growth of the two groups indicate an exciting shift toward more people practicing compassionate, plant-based living. Students doing peer-to-peer advocacy create events that end up reaching more folks, contributing to a larger future impact. We are grateful for our student chapters and the work they do!

If you’re a college student in the Twin Cities who is looking to become involved with one of our CAA student groups, visit our campus page to learn more. (High school students are welcome, too!) Weekly meetings have started up for this fall semester, and we have other upcoming volunteer opportunities listed here.

Photos from the 2018 Festival

160+ volunteers

100+ vendors

9,000 attendees

These are some of the numbers that describe the 2018 Twin Cities Veg Fest. This year’s festival was full of thoughtful presentations, exciting conversations, performances, and delicious food. Numbers are great, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Luckily, we’ve got a ton of pictures to show you how we Twin Cities Veg-Fested. Special thanks to our awesome volunteer photographers!

To see even more photos from Sunday (or share some of your own!), check out our Instagram feed and search for photos with the hashtags #tcvegfest or #tcvegfest18.

Have You Tried Seed Cafe?

Seed Cafe is one of the newest all-vegan businesses opening around the Twin Cities. Focusing on simple, plant-based meals like salads, rice bowls, and wraps and giving some vegan comfort classics like ice cream a healthy twist, the cafe is currently in its soft opening phase. They also have a lot of gluten-free options and a coffee bar.

This past weekend, they were open for an 11 – 1pm brunch as a part of their soft open, offering mouth-watering options like a chickpea frittata, scrambled tofu breakfast burrito, kale caesar salad, the infamous millennial favorite – avocado toast – and more.

We couldn’t get enough of their breakfast sandwich on focaccia with their now-forever-known-as-magical cheese aioli and avocado combination. (We ate it too quickly for a photo, oops.)

Ryann and Phil Doucette decided to open the cafe next door to their Modo Yoga franchise in the Calhoun Village shopping center at 3253 W Lake St after the space opened up. Seed Cafe marks their second restaurant endeavor – prior to moving their yoga practice to Minneapolis, they operated a cafe in Canada.

Whether you’re looking to get your brunch on after yoga, get a snack from their fresh grab and go, or hang out for a couple of hours, Seed Cafe has you covered. 

The bright, open cafe will be open this week for more breakfast and lunch! Check out their website for their soft open hours and take a peek at their menu.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2018 Recap

















This year marked some big additions for Twin Cities Veg Fest. We were in a new event space (thank you Harriet Island Regional Park!) and hosted 100+ vendors, new activities, more cooking demonstrations, roundtable discussions, more transportation options, and a 21+ After-Party. We even added music which included performances by the RedBone Singers, YaLonda Lolar Johnson, The Peace Life, The Sun Singers, Mistress Ginger and her band, Mary Bue, and DJ WAGZ. 


















Festival food favorites included jackfruit nachos from Reverie, cheeze curds from Radical Eats and Herbivorous Butcher, pineapple smoothies from Jasmine Deli, and so many more delicious options from over 25 food vendors. These Wingz? even came all the way from Chicago, IL to sling their BBQ and buffalo seitan-based wings. These vendors showed that plant-based options can be fun, delicious, hand-held, and extremely satisfying.

This year’s festival was pulled together by a 24-person planning committee, supported by 160+ volunteers, and enjoyed by over 9,000 attendees. Wow!

To put that in perspective, 2017’s festival hosted 15 food vendors, 70 exhibitors total, had 150 volunteers, a 10-person planning committee, and entertained over 7,000 attendees. 

Whether you attended, presented, or volunteered at the event, thank you for making Sunday possible. Your participation in Twin Cities Veg Fest contributed to the momentum of the plant-based movement sweeping the country. Together, we moved the ball forward for the animals!

To see more photos from Sunday, check out our Instagram feed and stay tuned for more video and photos released from the festival. Have some of your own to share? Post on social media and #tcvegfest!

Swag Bags Are Back!

Thanks to generous donor contributions, we’ll be handing out official Twin Cities Veg Fest swag bags to the first 225 attendees! To get yours, make sure to arrive early and get in line Sunday morning at 151 W Water Street (the official festival entrance).

Don’t want to wait until then to find out what’s in the bags? We’ve got you covered. This year’s swag bags will contain:

  • Upton’s curry dinner
  • Yelp tote bag
  • Orgain protein powder
  • Reverie coupon for a free dessert or side and veggie tattoo
  • Move2Veg Nutrition Counseling drink cozy
  • Nogurt pin and information
  • Bryan Schumann free music download
  • Sssdude-Nutz coaster
  • Farmaste Animal Sanctuary, Caravan Vet, The Stanford Inn and Resort, and Compassionate Action for Animals information

Dreaming of more Twin Cities Veg Fest swag? Official festival t-shirts will be available for purchase during the festival. Want yours for free? Sign up to volunteer Sunday at bit.ly/tcvegfest18vol to make a difference at the festival AND get a festival shirt!

Meet Our New Communications Coordinator!

A couple of weeks ago, Compassionate Action for Animals announced that a new Communications Coordinator had been selected. Emily Nyberg began working with CAA yesterday, September 4th.

Emily pictured holding Lenny the dog
Emily and Lenny the dog

Emily initially connected with CAA at several of the events we run and attend around Minneapolis and St. Paul, including Twin Cities Veg Fest and Twin Cities Pride. What struck her about the conversations she had with volunteers at events was the approach CAA uses to help individuals reconsider the impact their consumption habits have on farmed animals, our communities, and the environment.

Emily comes with non-profit and for-profit marketing experience, having interned for a number of non-profits, including Minnesota Opera, Vintage Band Festival, and Sing for Joy, a radio station based in Northfield, MN. While at St. Olaf College, she worked on their Music Entertainment Committee (MEC), a student-run organization that produced music events for the student body. Emily held several positions during her four years on the committee, from Marketing Communications Officer to Committee Coordinator. During her time on the committee, she most enjoyed connecting with other student-led groups to produce unique events for students to experience.

She has spent the past two years on the marketing team at Parsons Electric, an electrical and technologies contractor, where she focused on video and graphics content creation for social media campaigns and sales. One of the video series she produced in 2017 was recognized by the Construction Marketing Association after a successful email outreach campaign, receiving their 2017 CMA STAR award for Video. While at Parsons, she also wrote, designed, and distributed a new internal newsletter that informed employees about what was going on companywide.

“Each organization I’ve worked with has encouraged me to expand professionally and gain new perspectives to approach the way I work to support their mission,” said Emily of her previous work experiences. “I look forward to moving back into non-profit work, being a full-time animal advocate with CAA, and getting more involved with the Twin Cities vegan community.”

Emily (pictured right) standing with Hayden (on left) outside the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers
Emily (right) with Hayden at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, August 2018

Emily was drawn to apply for the Communications Coordinator position by CAA’s continued work towards educating the Twin Cities community about the farming industrial complex and making resources supporting a compassionate, plant-based diet accessible and sustainable for all. She believes it’s important to continue to talk about the animals and “why vegan?” even after committing to a vegan lifestyle in order to continue to strengthen and grow the community.

She is excited to support our community outreach events and potlucks and connect with more CAA volunteers. A large project she plans to start this year is the development of a communications plan for CAA that matches our mission and increases volunteer conversion.

When Emily is not working in support of the animals, you’re likely to find her in the kitchen veganizing different dishes with her boyfriend Hayden, singing, studying herbalism, exploring Minnesota with friends and family, or behind the counter at Healing Elements, a yoga and wellness studio in St. Paul.

We are excited to welcome Emily to the team. She will be at the 2018 Twin Cities Veg Fest and 21+ Veg Fest After Party on September 16. You can meet her there and join our celebration of the growing Twin Cities veg community!

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