Try Veganuary!

While anytime is an amazing time to go vegan, using the motivation from a New Year can provide a great incentive to start. Many decide to try plant-based eating for the month, a movement called Veganuary.

We’re here to help. Share this on social with friends and read on for a few ways to make this month a plant-powered success.

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Volunteer Shout-out: Shannon Lasnetske!

Meet Shannon, a member of the University of Minnesota CAA Student Group and one of the volunteer coordinators for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2019. Read on to learn who encouraged her to go vegan, her involvement with the animal rights movement, and what she’s working toward while in school.

Who (or what) inspired you to go vegan? 
When I was 16 years old I was scouted by a modeling agency in New York and they told me that if I could lose weight they wanted to sign me to work with them. On my way home at the airport my grandma, who was with me, bought me a book called Skinny Bitch to help me lose weight. It wasn’t a big book and I finished it on the plane before I was home. I had no idea it was actually a book about veganism, but it is what ultimately introduced me to the plant-based diet. I didn’t think I could do it, but I tried it for a day which turned into a week, and before I knew it I had been on the diet for months.

Was it a linear process? 
For me, it definitely was not a linear process. When I first read the book that I previously mentioned, my main concern was all about weight-loss. After about a year of plant-based eating and trying to lose weight for a modeling career, I gave up on all of it, even being vegan. At that time I forgot about the animals who were also mentioned in the book. About a year after that I met someone who helped reintroduce me to veganism (it wasn’t hard). After that, I was plant-based for a couple of years. About three years ago I learned more about the animals and what they go through for animal-tested products and for products like leather and wool, and that’s when I really embraced the vegan lifestyle, cruelty-free toothpaste and all. My process was a mess, but at this point, I know I’ll be 100% vegan for the rest of my life.

What is your favorite way to advocate for the animals? 
Outreach! I really love talking with people about veganism. I’ve had so many good conversations with people and I’ve learned so much since I’ve started advocating for the animals. I also like protesting and working with the AV Cube.

How did you get involved with CAA? 
If I remember correctly, I think what happened was I googled vegan groups in the Twin Cities and found the CAA website. One of the events listed on there was video outreach on the UMN campus, so I showed up on the date and time listed on the website and met a really cool group of people doing some amazing stuff.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?
There aren’t any animal rights groups that I am officially apart of, but I love meeting new people and going to activist events whenever I find them online. When I’m not volunteering I’m studying. I’m a full-time student, and I have a part-time job working as a medical scribe as well. When I’m not studying for my classes, my favorite hobby is studying languages.

What are you studying in school? 
I’m now majoring in Chemistry, French, and Arabic and minoring in Biochemistry. I really love being a student.

How does your major tie into what you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about learning and about languages, in which case what I’m studying is directly related to my passions. But I’m also a premedical student. I hope that once I’ve finished all my schooling, I can advocate for animals and champion a plant-based diet for health from a well-respected platform as a medical doctor.

What would you tell a new vegan to help them on their journey? 
I think the best advice I received when I first went vegan was to not be too hard on myself for mistakes and to take it one day at a time. For new vegans, mistakes can happen! Mistakes are a good opportunity to learn, don’t give up and don’t be beat yourself up. And even if you were vegan before and you did give up on it, you can always go vegan again!

Are you a University of Minnesota student? Get involved with the UMN CAA Chapter! Visit our student group page to learn more about meeting times or our volunteer page to get involved.

October Eats | Vegan Recipe Club

If this month’s recipes are any indication (aside from the changing weather), we’re heading into fall. Selections for October include:

You can download this month’s recipes here.

Explore the Fall Flavors of the Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge

If you’ve already gone to try some of the dishes as a part of the challenge, you know that they are gooooooood but if you haven’t, a picture is worth 1,000 words (and definitely the prelude to heading in for a taste). Check out these delicious, vegan specials available until October 20—and make sure to share your experience when you vote AND share photos from your visit on social with #tcveganchef to be entered into a weekly drawing!

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Local Heroes: Farm Sanctuaries

Hilda was so sick she couldn’t even stand. And the shadows swirling around her didn’t seem to care. She blacked out, and it’s lucky she did because where she was about to end up would almost surely have sealed her fate: on a pile of her dead friends. She wasn’t known as Hilda, then. But the soft bed of hay she found herself resting on when she came to was her start down a path to healing and love.

The farm sanctuary movement was born when Gene Baur rescued Hilda behind a Lancaster, Pennsylvania stockyard 1986. He sold vegan hotdogs out of his VW van in Grateful Dead concert parking lots to raise funds for his aptly-named Farm Sanctuary, where Hilda lived 10 long years. Today, there are about 100 sanctuaries across the United States with six in Minnesota and one in western Wisconsin. Let’s take a look at how our local sanctuaries are contributing to the movement.

Meet some of the sanctuaries around the Twin Cities

Anna Lake is a microsanctuary that is home to 20 chickens, five ducks, and three cows. They provide rescue, education, and adoption. The microsanctuary movement believes that rescue can be just as effective on a small scale. annalakeanimalsanctuary.com

Chicken Run provides shelter, vet care, love, and adoptive homes to rescued chickens. They’re the only urban chicken rescue of its kind. They educate the public about how adopting animals impacts their lives and encourage all to help further positively impacting the lives of chickens by adopting a vegan diet. chickenrunrescue.org

Farmaste offers rescue, a safe haven, and rehabilitation to unwanted, injured and abused farm animals. They offer many community outreach programs and camps to promote compassionate and mindful living that inspire folks to rethink what they can do to impact the lives of farmed animals. farmaste.org

Little Acorn is Minnesota’s newest sanctuary and has big dreams about the role they will play in the lives of farm animals that have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. Their current residents include goats and chickens. They offer private tours, as well as volunteer opportunities. They work hard to educate the public about the harmful effects of factory farming. littleacornsanctuary.org

Rooster Redemption currently provides sanctuary for 23 abandoned, exploited, and mistreated roosters. They choose to refrain from giving regular public tours but can make special arrangements for visitors. roosterredemption.org

Spring Farm was one of the first farm animal sanctuaries in Minnesota and is “committed to ending farm animal cruelty and promoting vegan living through our rescue, rehabilitation and education efforts.” Owner Robin cares for 20+ residents while educating the local community through events and tours about the environmental effects of industrial animal agriculture and the conditions animals endure. springfarmsanctuary.org

SoulSpace opened in 2015, has 40+ residents, and “works to inspire change in the way society views farm animals and support people in their quest to live a more compassionate lifestyle.” People of all ages can volunteer or take a tour. They host one- and four-day education programs. And in 2017, owner Kara opened a vegan Airbnb (guests are asked not to consume animal products on sanctuary grounds during their stay) on her farmhouse’s upper level to further fund and fulfill their mission. soulspacesanctuary.org

Meet Pancake (left) and Martin, friends, and residents of Little Acorn Sanctuary. Pancake wears a bell so Martin, who is blind, can find him.

More than just a home

Minnesota and Wisconsin are fortunate to be home to so many of these important allies in the animal rights movement. Their residents experience healing and the chance to be themselves. Visitors learn how advocating for changes to factory farming and adopting a plant-based diet can make an impact. Volunteers put their passion for animal rights into action through direct care and education.

At their heart, farm sanctuaries are safe spaces of change and healing for both their residents and surrounding communities. We are so grateful for the work these sanctuaries and their residents do! Each year, CAA organizes group visits to some of our local sanctuaries. To pre-register for one of these life-changing trips, visit exploreveg.org/events or email info@exploreveg.org to learn more and get involved.

This article was originally published in the 2019 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living.

Emily Kampa is a writer, animal lover, and foodie. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her wife Laura and their American Staffordshire Terrier, Pip.

A Leader in Calling for Pollinator Rights | Bee Free Honee

This summer, local-based Bee Free Honee announced that they would be shutting down their operations. We met with founder and creator, Katie Sanchez, to talk about her honee’s start, the journey it took her on, and facts about these often misunderstood and abused animals.

A sweet start

Katie created the project by chance during her days of working as pastry chef for Whole Foods when trying to make apple jelly for the first time. Katie explains, “I didn’t want to make jelly with gelatin and I didn’t want it to be so sweet.” After it didn’t turn out the way she had planned, she canned the jelly and left it overnight to find a honey-like substance in the morning.

“At the time, when I thought about the vegan pastries we were making for Whole Foods, we didn’t have a lot of options for sweeteners. I had always wished we could use something like honey that was light and would let lemon or vanilla bean come through, and so I thought this could be a really cool gift for my fellow vegan bakers,” recalls Katie.

Her cousin asking, “why not make it a business of your own?” prompted Katie to turn her researching and consideration of the honey into a reality and work toward bringing it to market.

Flower Pollen Infused Bee Free Honee has all the nutrition you’d hope to find in raw bee honey but is vegan, from pollen sourced straight from the flower. (Photo from Bee Free Honee)

A honey ahead of its time

The honey was not only a great alternative for vegans, but for all human children and folks who are allergic to honey. (Children are advised not to eat honey due to their young age).

In a time where an increasing number of analogs are being developed for eggs, dairy, and fish and land animal flesh there weren’t direct analogs out there for honey.

Growth and time on Shark Tank

Katie and her business partner made an appearance on Shark Tank as well, where they learned how to explain their product and the importance of protecting pollinator rights when appearing in front of the sharks.

“When I started I didn’t realize the depth of the honey controversy,” recalls Katie. “My dad and his retired beekeeping buddies were all excited about it. I thought that this product can only do good. I was not in any way prepared for the level of disruption that was ready to ensue upon me.”

Katie started out with the original, and then came out with Slippery Elm, which aimed to help soothe throats and calm upset stomachs, before she learned how to make flower pollen infused bee free honee, which had flower pollen extracts custom blended to create a full profile of all the nutrients in the measurement that would equal raw bee honey. “We were the only honey on the market that had a nutrition panel that listed all of the nutrients inside in every tablespoon. No other honey could do that because every pollen profile has a different nutrient profile and it would be too expensive to test every individual honey.”

Katie realized the criticism and slow reception to the honee wasn’t about nutrition, but perhaps something deeper. “Today, I think people are a little more ready to hear the message. I’m hoping that we were at least able to break through and pave the way for the next person,” reflects Katie. “I’m not going to stop trying to help our pollinators and putting information out there, and hopefully the ripple effect will help our pollinators.”

“Starting a business with a mission is really challenging. You have to learn as you go and be accepting. We’re all trying to be the best we can in the world. If we’re really going to save lives, the world, and our humanity, then we have to meet anger with love and acceptance.”

We need to stop undermining our pollinators and work to support them, which starts with not eating their honey or taking any of their other secretions.

Honey is a health food—for bees

Roughly one third of honey being sold in the United States is produced domestically, while the rest is imported from around the world. What’s more—over three-fourths of what is sold in the US is ultra-filtered to remove the pollen.

“Producers call it honey because it comes from a bee, but because there’s no real definition, they can call it honey and get away with it,” explained Katie.

Filtering helps exporters and importers disguise where their honey is from (as pollen is the only way to identify where honey is from) and import honey potentially contaminated with heavy metals and illegal antibiotics. Learn more about honey laundering here.

The most alarming of this all is that during a time with climate change, disease, and other factors wreaking havoc on pollinator populations, we are taking the “surplus” honey from bees, which isn’t actually surplus, but stores of honey each hive sets aside for consumption in hard times (including winter) to sustain their population. Producing honey is no small feat—during a bee’s lifetime, he will only make approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey and to make one pound of honey, a colony will have to visit over two million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles, at up to 15 miles per hour according to the Utah County Beekeepers Association.

It’s difficult to determine what is a “surplus” in honey from hive to hive and large-scale beekeepers often remove all or most of it and replace it with a sugar or corn syrup substitute, which is nutritionally deficient and eventually makes bee populations sick. Farming also often limits bees’ diet to monoculture crops and introduces large amounts of pesticides into their systems and can lead to farmed hives crowding out wild pollinators.

“How is this a positive thing for this insect that’s being trucked around the United States, being exposed to every climate in an unnatural manner? Every orchard and grove uses a different pesticide, so they’re being exposed to every pesticide. It’s not just one truck coming in, it’s multiple trucks from all over the US. If one hive is contaminated with mites and another is healthy, by morning, the mites will have moved over to the healthy hive so that it’s contaminated as well,” explains Katie. “Bees are being exposed to everything simultaneously, their food is being taken, queens are being swapped out of hives unnaturally and regularly so that the queen is productive, and we ask ourselves, ‘What’s happening? Why are the bees in decline?’ It’s not a mystery. We’re doing everything we can to kill them.”

“Bees are being exposed to everything simultaneously, their food is being taken, queens are being swapped out of hives unnaturally and regularly so that the queen is productive, and we ask ourselves, ‘What’s happening? Why are the bees in decline?’ It’s not a mystery. We’re doing everything we can to kill them.”

Another bee “ingredient” to watch out for is bee venom, which is collected by randomly shocking bees as they try to enter their hive. It can be found in face masks and other personal care products.

Pollinators in peril

Pollution, chemicals, disease, and climate change are all contributing to shrinking and shifting pollinator populations.

With over 35% of the world’s food supply relying on pollinators to some degree, it’s impossible to imagine a well-fed future without pollinators. In addition to facilitating the creation of the food we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.

How to support pollinators

You may be reading and wondering, “But what can I do?!” Luckily, there are some excellent ways to support bees and other pollinators.

If you have access to land, start by planting a pollinator garden! Did you know Washington state has a pollinator path running through it? It started with a woman getting permission from the city to plant a pollinator-friendly garden between the sidewalk and the street near her house and grew when her neighbor saw it and decided to replicate it in their yard. It took years to grow as neighbors joined in and created more and more of the pollinator path.

  • Stop buying into the monoagricultural system. Buying and planting the same types of plants from large stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menard’s, etc.) leads to nondiversified nutrition for pollinators, plus the plants that are purchased from these stores often have seeds that are impregnated with pesticides so they last longer and people won’t return them (but consequently make pollinators sick!)
  • You can look for plants that are indigenous to your area that are pollinator friendly (including Beebalm, Pale Purple Coneflower, Sunflower, Joe-Pye Weed, and Yarrow) that you can plant in your neighborhood that don’t come from big box stores.
  • Don’t destroy your dandelions—they are the first food sources for pollinators.
  • Get involved with your city—Check out what they’re already doing and ask them to plant pollinator-friendly plants and allow them to grow wild without intervention.
  • Stop buying honey, beeswax, and other products carrying bee secretions and share why you’re not buying them with others.

Thank you Katie and Bee Free Honee for being a voice for pollinators and calling for their protection. You have inspired many across the country to join you, and your honee will be missed.

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Veg Resources

Upcoming Events

Sunday, August 1, 2021 - Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge 2021

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Rooster Redemption Sanctuary Tour

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Vegan Potluck Picnic – St. Cloud

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Poster for Twin Cities Veg Fest

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Vegan Recipe Club via Zoom