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That Kooky Twin Cities Veg Fest Planning Committee

Sal at Heartland

It’s no secret: The team behind Twin Cities Veg Fest is a kooky bunch. I mean, they have to be kooky to take on the challenge of putting together a mammoth festival that draws thousands and shows them how freaking awesome vegan food can be. But they do it because they love it. And they do it for the animals. So maybe they’re not so kooky as they are extraordinarily compassionate. Here’s a bit more about them and why they love Twin Cities Veg Fest so freaking much:

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest?

  • More space! We can accommodate more people in the exhibitor halls (now we’ll have two!) and we have a ton of room for people to come to our cooking demonstrations!
  • Working with the exhibitors
  • Food, food, and more food. And maybe some food to go with the food. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing people show up and enjoy themselves. And food.
  • Every year I look forward to new and interesting food vendors. Word is getting out that Twin Cities Veg Fest is a great place to showcase delicious vegan food (and sell out!) so I hope our food court grows even more.
  • Introducing very skeptical omnivores to the wonderfulness that is vegan food.  Hearing “Hey, this is good!” is music to my ears.

Can you tell us a little-known fact about another committee member?

  • I think Sal looks like the pop star Robyn.
  • Unny used to have incredibly long hair, super hippie-style.
  • Unny pledged to not read any Harry Potter for ten years, and that kind of makes me want to start reading Harry Potter.
  • Dave loves vegan food but not fruit. Weird.

If you could help rescue any animal, who would it be and why?

  • I’d like a nonhuman animal to rescue humans from ourselves! I think I’ll have a Kneazle rescue us; my friends would appreciate that.
  • Any animal is worth rescuing.
  • Definitely a pig. Pigs are just too darn cute. On the other hand, I like pretty much all animals, so I’m not picky.
  • A chicken! Because I think I could probably care for her or him at home.
  • A horse! Or a cow. Or a lamb. Or a goat. Okay, I want to rescue them all.

Who is on the Twin Cities Veg Fest Planning Committee?

Dave Rolsky - Pretty Furniture (Committee Chair)

Dave Rolsky – Pretty Furniture (Committee Chair)
Brita Bengtson - So Many Friends (Social Media Coordinator)

Brita Bengtson – So Many Friends (Social Media Coordinator)
Chris Homsey - Cooks up Chefs (Cooking Demo Coordinator) with Mika

Chris Homsey – Cooks up Chefs (Cooking Demo Coordinator) with Mika
Unny Nambudiripad - Buck Stops Here (CAA Executive Director)

Unny Nambudiripad – Buck Stops Here (CAA Executive Director)
Kirsten Just Kirsten Just - Extraordinary Organizer (Exhibitor Logistics Coordinator)

Kirsten Just – Extraordinary Organizer (Exhibitor Logistics Coordinator)
Sal Kravik - Hardy Partier (Pre-Party and Twitter Coordinator)

Sal Kravik – Hardy Partier (Pre-Party and Twitter Coordinator)

Not pictured: Annette Gaudreau – Speaks to Speakers (Speaker Coordinator)

Twin Cities Veg Fest will take place on Sunday, November 1, from 10am to 4pm at Coffman Memorial Union. RSVP on the Facebook event page and let us know if you’d like to volunteer for the event.

Share the News: Twin Cities Veg Fest Is Coming!


If you love Twin Cities Veg Fest and want to see it grow, one important way that you can help out is to spread the word, letting others know about it. There’s lots of ways you can do this. Here are just a few options:

Use Social Media

Follow and share our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest pages. Also, RSVP and then invite your friends to our Facebook event.

Make Original Social Media Posts

  • Use photos whenever possible.
  • @tag “TCVegFest” on Instagram and Twitter, and tag our Facebook page.
  • If your post also highlights another business or organization such as one of our exhibitors or a business you would like to be an exhibitor, @tag them too!
  • Use hashtags #TCVegFest and #CelebrateCompassion
  • If you have room, mention the date, location, and time: Sunday, November 1, 2015, 10am – 4pm at Coffman Memorial Union, Minneapolis MN.
  • Topics for posting:
      • Post about our sponsors and exhibitors.
      • If you know of a product or local food vendor that you would like to see participate in Twin Cities Veg Fest, let them know. Tell them how 2014 food vendors such as Glam Doll Donuts were wildly successful and sold out by early afternoon. Then, post a picture of their product, tag them with @tcvegfest or with our Facebook page, and include the hashtag #TCVegFest.
      • Post about our speakers and cooking demos.
      • Post a #ThrowbackThursday (#TBT, #WBW, or #FBF) of a photo from last year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest.

Why should I post about #TCVegFest?

In addition to being a part of the team that makes Twin Cities Veg Fest a success, you have the opportunity to get a little extra swag. The top 20 social media posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are guaranteed a swag bag on the day of our event (no need to get up early to wait in line), and those swag bags will include one extra special item! To participate for your chance to win, your social media posts must be public and will be judged by quality as well as popularity.

Other Ways to Share

  • Post Images on Your Blog or Website
    • If you have a blog or website of your own, here are two images you can use to link to our site (click on the images for larger versions that you can download):



  • Share the Weekly Update
    • Subscribe to Compassionate Action for Animals’ Weekly Update and forward emails about the festival to your friends. We’ll have a lot of exciting news about the festival coming up in the months leading up to the festival.

However you choose to share the news, be sure to reach out to your friends who are not vegan or vegetarian. Over the years, we’ve learned that the most common way for non-vegetarians to hear about the festival is from their vegetarian friends. We’d love to have even more non-vegetarians come to the festival to learn about why and how to make more compassionate food choices. Your help getting them there is crucial.

In addition to sharing the festival online, you’re welcome to help us promote the festival by distributing posters and flyers around town. Check out our event page for postering opportunities.

Do you know of another way that we can get the word out? Let us know!

Join us and help make Twin Cities Veg Fest even better!

Eat Like a Million Bucks: Roberto Martin’s New Vegan Cooking

Roberto's Vegan Cooking image

If you want to eat like a vegan superstar but can’t afford takeout, much less your own personal chef, Roberto’s New Vegan Cooking: 125 Easy, Delicious, Real Food Recipes is the book for you. Roberto Martin’s collection of recipes spans the gamut from quick and easy to super fancy and dispels the myth that vegans can’t eat well on a budget.

Rather than relying on convenience foods like mock meat and dairy, Roberto shows that, with the proper technique and seasonings, wholesome, affordable ingredients such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and mushrooms can be turned into culinary masterpieces. His Eggplant Parm can be perfectly battered and fried up to be crisp and tender with surprisingly no fuss. He shares with the world the magic of besan (garbanzo) flour, a lesser-known vegan wonder food. He uses this for his “lobster” quiche, which was hearty and packed with flavor. Martin graces the reader with treats stemming from his Mexican heritage, such as his tofu soyrizo and a showpiece: Albondigas (the Spanish word for “meatballs”) Soup.

Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup

Martin does all of this with little to no assistance from pre-packaged, processed foods. He even offers up some of his own recipes for all those little ingredients we love to eat but often hate paying for, like ketchup, sour cream, pickles and other condiments. While some of Martin’s recipes may be a bit advanced for the novice plant-based eater, he eases the reader into trying out new things by beginning the book with a chapter of DIY basics, staples, and starters. His fast, cheap, simple recipes for condiments such as vegan mayo and barbecue sauce (which is great since honey-free versions are increasingly hard to find) make these foods suddenly within reach for novices and those with processed-food phobias.

On top of all that, he provides detailed instructions on how to make the perfect flaky, crisp vegan croissants, which could probably convince just about any veg-inclined individual to pick up a copy of Roberto’s Vegan Cooking post-haste.

EG Nelson is a community funding coordinator by day and a bicycle enthusiast, competitive baker, and advocate for queers and animals at all other times. She is a co-founder of Queer Bike Gang and can be found riding around Minneapolis where she lives with a cute boi and three cats. Learn more at image001

Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award

Kenny Feldman was an animal lover

We’re pleased to announce the Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award!

We’ve created this award to recognize a person, organization, or business in our community whose amazing work is pushing the ball forward for animals. This year, we’re giving the award to The Herbivorous Butcher, our local meat-free butcher shop.

After a few short years of selling their vegan goods at farmer’s markets and pop-up events, The Herbivorous Butcher is about to open their own storefront in Northeast Minneapolis. They’ve already made headlines around the country and world. Here’s why: they make incredibly tasty and interesting plant-based “meats,” they’re opening the first vegan butcher shop on the continent, and they have a fun, creative, and positive approach to their business.

This is exactly what our movement needs: energetic advocates who are creating solutions. As people replace their animal-based foods with Herbivorous Butcher’s delectable vegan foods, fewer animals are killed for food. Hooray!

This award honors the memory of animal lover Kenny Feldman. He thought animals should be cared for and allowed to a live a life with freedom. Kenny was a close friend of mine and inspired me to become an activist. Sadly, we lost him to suicide 16 years ago. From that tragic loss, we are moved to establish this annual award to acknowledge the contributions of individuals who strive to create a more compassionate world.

We will present the award at the Twin Cities Veg Fest Pre-Festival Party on October 30.

Bridges of Respect: Balancing Perspectives

Blaine High, Christy 1

Our humane education program, Bridges of Respect, has reached over 800 students so far this year. The program conveys values of respect and compassion for animals. Class time usually allows us about an hour with the students. We showcase a variety of plant-based foods. We also share the stories of our personal transitions to vegetarianism, the pitfalls and the benefits of a plant-based diet, the availability of plant-based foods, and resources for change.

The presentations we offer cover a variety of animal protection topics. Students participate in the presentation, taste vegan food samples, and sometimes take notes for a test or other assignment. We’ve recently received our first presentation request for the fall semester, and it’s from an Animal Management class at Blaine High School.

We first started working with this class last spring. The course explores small animal care and career opportunities. It also has a rights and welfare section that talks extensively about animals that are farmed, vivisected, and hunted. More specifically, it highlights how those practices benefit humanity. When we sat down with the teacher, he told us that he thought that the textbook and lesson plans are very biased in favor of those industries. He was stuck with it though and wanted us to provide another viewpoint. Looking through the materials, we could see what he meant. The textbook would approach each topic with a poorly constructed depiction of the animal rights position in a paragraph or two, and then spend the remaining eight paragraphs defending the use of animals. It also didn’t take long for the animal protectionist to be painted with a broad brush stroke — credited with sabotage, property damage, and even terrorism.

Photos in the textbook were provided courtesy of the Farmer’s Exchange, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Agriscience, and the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and represented animal agriculture in the best possible light. The photo depicting veal production, for example, didn’t show a calf immobilized and chained by the neck in a wooden stall, as is the case for most calves in the industry. Instead, they were pictured in outdoor pens with sunshine and a mountainscape. The caption reads: ”Veal calves are kept in individual stalls so they can receive individual attention. Disease is kept to a minimum and farmers are able to feed and care for the calves more efficiently. The economic welfare of the farmers depends on the proper care and treatment of their animals.”

Another photo shows hens in battery cages. These cages are one of the most restrictive of all housing methods used by factory farms. As many as a dozen birds are crammed in a wire cage that measures less than the width of one bird’s wing span, but there was no mention of this in the textbook. Here is their description of battery cages: “Laying hens are kept in cages under controlled environments that increase the efficiency of the laying operation. Each hen receives adequate feed and water. Eggs, a valuable part of the diet for many Americans, are available at affordable prices because of the efficiency of these operations.” Though it is true that these intensive farming operations produce cheap eggs, the other statements are suspect, especially in light of many undercover investigations that reveal otherwise.

The textbook also tells impressionable students that: “Farming in the United States is not controlled by large corporations. Of the 2.2 million farms in the United States, 97 percent are family-owned and operated; only 7,000 are non-family-controlled operations.” Their source for these numbers was dated 1988 and fails to mention that the three percent of farms that aren’t small family farms are in fact factory farms and contain the vast majority of animals raised for food.

The teacher wasn’t really sure where to go from there, what to say or which videos to use. He wanted to show a more balanced perspective, and that’s where we came in.

The teacher allotted time for us to provide three presentations for his students. We shifted the focus to a more moderate view of animal protection with examples of peaceful activism, community building, and personal growth. We also presented a detailed overview of the ways in which animals need our help most. No less than a dozen students, about half of them, hung around after class to speak with the presenters about how to get involved, eat more plant-based foods, find cruelty-free products, and more. We played a variety of films for students, including the Mercy for Animals’ eye-opening expose “Farm to Fridge,” clips from Peaceable Kingdom, a documentary about the Farm Sanctuary, and a 20/20 Special titled “Almost Human” that focuses on a chimp named Booee who knows sign language but was sold to a lab. We also gave the teacher a Discovery documentary that discusses the emotions of animals. The film, titled Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry, resonates powerfully with students. We frequently use clips from it in middle and high schools.

The teacher even has us rewriting some of the handouts to reflect animal protection in a fair light. These handouts are already in use, counteracting the decades-long presence of industry-produced resources designed to protect profits and stifle progress for animals. In this way, they serve the same purpose as the dangerous ag-gag laws aimed at censoring documentation of routine practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The teacher now refers to Bridges of Respect as an important part of his curriculum. We’ve appreciated the opportunity to meet with these students at Blaine High School for more than three hours and are looking forward to meeting the new students in the fall. To make informed choices, students need all of the information. From what I’ve seen, students appreciate honesty and will often look for ways to help when they recognize that there is a need. They will make decisions that reflect their values and ultimately make a difference for animals.

What Happened at the August Board Meeting

Black Rooster Head

CAA’s August board meeting began with a report from our Executive Director, Unny Nambudiripad, about some recent successful outreach events CAA has been engaged in. We leafleted at the Warped Tour and ran a pay-per-view event at Twin Cities Pride. Unny also reported on CAA’s presence at the national Animal Rights Conference in Washington D.C..

As we transition to a new internal website used to plan events and projects, a lingering worry has to do with whether we will be able to export content from this site if we find ourselves needing to make a change down he road. While there is no built in option to do this, it appears that Dave Rolsky (our treasurer) will be able to write a software program that can do this for us. Good thing we have someone with computer programming skills on the board!

We next turned our attention to the complex business of evaluating the effectiveness of our programs. Unny and Justin (our Communications and Events Coordinator) had discussions around these issues with leaders in this area at the Animal Rights Conference. One of the suggestions we look forward taking up was the idea of engaging in dialogue with members of our target audience about how to help them make more compassionate food choices. Once we have good information about those needs, we can tailor our programs to meet them. We also decided to continue making use of existing research (for example, Nick Cooney’s excellent book Change of Heart) to inform our outreach and communication efforts.

We revisited the question of board member recruitment and we decided that we will announce opportunities for volunteer board members through the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. We also decided to explore the possibility of recruiting folks from across the country who work successfully on the kinds of issues that are central to CAA’s mission.

Our next board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, November 5 at 6pm. You should consider being a part of that meeting if you’re interested. If you’d like to participate, contact Unny Nambudiripad at

Compassionate Times, August 2015

Pride pay-per-view 2015

Opening Hearts, Changing Minds

written by Linda Pope, CAA Volunteer at Twin Cities Pride 2015

My 13 year old son and I were among the many CAA volunteers and staff working the pay-per-view table this June at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. We offered attendees one dollar to watch a short segment of the documentary, Farm to Fridge.

It was a very successful event in that 540 attendees watched the video. One reason we were able to reach so many people was because volunteers had multiple tablets set up for viewing, and they were continuously in use.

In between viewings, we had many heartfelt conversations with viewers and other attendees who were curious or wanted to learn more about the disconnect between what happens on factory farms and industry’s heavily funded efforts to manipulate the public’s understanding of factory farming. Others were eager to share that they were vegetarian or vegan too. Some people simply thanked us for what we were doing.

Continue reading

Animal Rights National Conference 2015: Inspiration and Fun

Unny Nambudiripad - Buck Stops Here (CAA Executive Director)

Two staff members and four volunteers from Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month for the Animal Rights National Conference. Over the course of four days, we got to experience all that this annual conference has to offer, including a variety of inspiring presentations, lots of delicious vegan food, dozens of exhibitors, and the opportunity to network with others who advocate for animals.

As CAA’s Executive Director, I gave a talk about how to plan a veg fest. Referring to our guide to plan a festival, I showed others how they can start a festival in their own city. I also helped organize a lunch for veg fest planners from around the continent. Dozens of festivals were represented, and we were able to share our experiences so that we can improve the quality of festivals everywhere. We’re undertaking this collaboration to ensure that our own Twin Cities Veg Fest can have the biggest impact for the animals. It’s also great to share what we’ve learned, to help other festivals overcome their obstacles. Collectively, these festivals can make a big difference for animals, reaching hundreds of thousands of people and showing them how fun and meaningful compassionate living can be.

CAA volunteer and co-founder Dave Rolsky gave a talk about how to use collaborative technology to run an animal advocacy organization. Dave is a professional software developer, and his experience includes making user-friendly websites. He’s an expert on the variety of simple and useful online tools to get our work done, and he was able to share his technical know-how at the conference.

While our participation in the conference was exciting, so was witnessing the state of the Animal Rights movement. This year’s conference was the largest one yet, with more than 1,600 attendees. It’s also exciting to see how strategic, results-oriented farmed animal advocacy organizations are growing, and we were able to develop meaningful relationships with activists around the country that will help us do our work. These activists are creating videos about factory farming, publishing leaflets, and conducting research on how to make our movement more effective.

Following the conference, I took a trip to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary where I got to spend the day meeting rescued animals. It was perhaps the most inspiring part of my trip, getting to see the life behind the eyes of these animals, my reason for being on this path and for speaking up for their right to be free. I’ve returned to Minnesota feeling motivated to bring what I’ve learned to our Twin Cities community, to strengthen our group, to get our message out there, and to make a difference for the animals that still need our help.

Vegan Main Dish Competition at the State Fair

Chickpea & Veggie Salad with Tahini Dressing

The Minnesota State Fair is coming up soon, and they’re hosting their 4th annual Vegan Main Dish Competition. Your favorite original vegan recipe could be the winner. This is a fun way to participate in the fair while sharing how awesome vegan food can be. Register to enter the competition by tomorrow, August 11 at 4:30pm.

The judges are looking for tasty, easy-to-prepare dishes that supply a complete protein. The entries will be on display in the Creative Activities Building, and the winner will receive a ribbon, a check, and vegan cookbook.

The category is listed as lot #1110 on page 39 in the Creative Activities Booklet. Check it out and enter to win!

What Happened at the June Board Meeting


We began CAA’s June board meeting by briefly reviewing and unanimously ratifying the budget for the coming fiscal year. We have a growing interest in assessing our work as an organization, so we decided to have a look at donation history to begin to get a better sense of the impact of our fundraising efforts. We’ll take a look at that history at our next meeting.

Board members were then introduced to the new website where organizational information will be collected. Because of its ease of use and integration with Google services, we feel this new site will offer lots of advantages over our current wiki for everyone involved in CAA’s work.

Our discussion then turned to the difficult task of assessing the extent to which CAA should get involved in campaigns like promoting Meatless Mondays. Traditionally, CAA has focussed on organizing outreach events (like leafleting and pay-per-view) and community building events (like the Chili Cook-off and the Twin Cities Veg Fest). We see campaigns like Meatless Monday as potentially powerful ways to help reduce the amount of suffering animals endure on factory farms as well. While these campaigns can generate a lot of energy, it happens that support for them among volunteers can fade over time. In view of this, we considered the possibility of allocating more staff time to work on these efforts and drawing up contracts between staff and volunteers that lay out clearly in advance the amount of time being involved in these campaigns will require of volunteers.

We also discussed board recruitment. Board members are central to helping shape CAA’s work and we are currently looking for new board members to join us. You should consider coming to a meeting if you’re interested. Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm. If you’d like to attend, contact Unny Nambudiripad at

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