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Meet Phil Martens, a strong advocate for the animals who is always up for a conversation. He’s the founder of G-Werx® Fitness and has been a volunteer with CAA since 2008.
Phil started volunteering with CAA because he hoped to make a difference. “I wanted to do something and looked for a volunteering community promoting vegetarianism––I was a vegetarian at the time––and I reached out to CAA and said, ‘Hey, do you guys need any help? I’d like to do something more than just not eat animals, maybe help other people figure out what I’ve learned.’”
He’s enjoyed volunteering with Veg Pledge, a program encouraging people to try out living plant-based for a week. “You get to encourage people and ask, ‘Hey, what do you have to lose? What’s this going to hurt for you to just not eat animals for one week?’ and talk to them about it,” said Phil of the program. “People say, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a shot, why not?’ and that’s a lot of fun and rewarding.”
In addition to Veg Pledge, Phil has also volunteered with pay-per-view video outreach, Bridges of Respect, Twin Cities Veg Fest, and more. He considers video outreach to be an important part of animal rights activism, noting, “[an outreach event] doesn’t get everybody, but there’s always somebody who walks away from it that is changed forever.”
“I think most of us think or thought, ‘I could never give up cheese,’ or, ‘it would be hard to give up eggs,’ or whatever, but in the end, the price that’s paid for these is not worth it,” said Phil.
Throughout his plant-based life, Phil’s advocacy for the animals has changed. “Back in the day, I didn’t talk to people [about being vegan]. I kept it to myself, because often people would lash out or ask questions and I didn’t feel I knew enough about to give answers to.”
“But then something changed. I started educating myself on every aspect of animal agriculture,” said Phil. Everything indeed––from environmental impacts including resource use, climate change, species extinction, deforestation, pollution, and superbugs, to cruelty and abuse inflicted on animals, health impacts, and more. “It is the most horrific industry in every way.”
Today, Phil is ready for any question and conversation. After extensively researching the whys to live a plant-based life, “I can talk to anybody whether hostile or friendly and remain calm and unflustered. There’s an answer to anything anybody has to say and it leads to the same conclusion––we shouldn’t be eating animals.”
Supporting a plant-based fitness community
As for his community at G-Werx Fitness, “Everybody knows I’m vegan,” said Phil. Throughout the years as a trainer, Phil has enjoyed hearing about his clients’ lifestyle changes and plant-based adventures. He now enjoys answering any questions they have. “I’ve had many clients who have come and said, ‘You know, I’m doing a meatless Monday or I’m vegetarian now,’ or they come and say, ‘Oh my goodness I made a cashew casserole. It was 100% vegan and I can’t believe how good it was!’” Phil loves joking back, “Vegans eat more than grass and it can be great!”
Although living a veg-friendly lifestyle isn’t the primary focus of his business, when asked by clients looking for a protein boost, Phil recommends plant-based protein brands like Vega or Garden of Life and says stay away from whey. “The whole delusional protein craze started in the fitness industry,” Phil explains. “It started based on a symbiotic relationship between the fitness magazines writing stories hyping protein to help whey distributors who were taking out full-page ads in their mag. It had nothing to do with reality. The meat and dairy industry picked up on this tactic and high protein requirements become part of the national health narrative, but nobody was talking about protein 20, 30 years ago. It wasn’t an issue. And nobody has ever been hospitalized for a protein deficiency unless they were starving to death.”
Phil’s passion and expertise in the fitness industry shine. He developed and patented a unique workout system and machine that are used at three G-Werx locations. And he definitely utilizes the platform, making sure to keep himself available to answer questions his clients may have about being plant-based. “I have the opportunity to talk with people about it regularly because of what I do,” said Phil.
He has advice to those looking to make more plant-based choices in the long term, and to those coaching others make the change. “Learn more about all of the reasons to be vegan because the more facts you know, plant-based choices become clear as the right choices.”
Are you interested in volunteering? Sign up for our volunteer list today and keep an eye on our website and social media for more events and ways to get involved with the growing Twin Cities plant-based community.
Kicked off by World Vegan Day on November 1st, World Vegan Month is celebrated globally as a time recognizing how far the vegan movement has come, how accessible living plant-based and vegan can be, and as a time to encourage veg-curious to adopt or explore veganism further through trying new restaurants, recipes, and exploring ideas. It’s also a time to consider and acknowledge how beneficial this lifestyle can be to the environment, our communities, and the animals.
The celebration of World Vegan Day began in 1994, in commemoration of the Vegan Society’s 50th Anniversary.
The Vegan Society was founded in November 1944 by David Watson, Elsie Shrigley, and four other non-dairy vegetarians. The group felt that there was a need for a more accurate word to describe them, finally settling on ‘vegan’, or “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” In 1949, Leslie J. Cross noted that the society lacked a definition of veganism (separate from the definition of veganism that was already in existence), leading to the definition of veganism as seeking “an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.”
The definition underwent another evolution in the 1980s, now being:
[…] a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
The earliest practitioners of vegetarianism and veganism lived over 2,000 years ago, including Pythagoras of Samos and the Buddha. By the time David Watson died at age 95 in 2005, there were 250,000 self-identifying vegans in Britain and 2 million in the U.S.
Today, veganism continues to spread. As of 2017, six percent of Americans identify as vegan (that’s roughly 16 million people). Compared to one percent in 2014, that’s a huge growth! The number of plant-based options available in the market is also increasing dramatically.
Celebrations are happening around the world
- On November 1st, 2018, over 3,000 vegan activists marched for animal rights in Hamburg, Germany. The activists formed a human chain around the inner Alster lake in the city center before marching through the city center, making the longest human chain for animal rights ever formed. The event was likely the biggest animal rights event in Hamburg and possibly Germany to date.
- See the list The Vegan Society is keeping on their website of vegan celebrations happening around the world.
How can I celebrate World Vegan Month?
- Incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet! Try out a new recipe for lentil chili, pumpkin mac and cheeze, or create one of your own!
- Have a plant-based potluck with friends and mark your calendars for our 16th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck on December 1.
- If you’re working on reducing or limiting your own animal product intake, try out a plant-based analog to dairy or meat––there are a number of awesome makers of vegan cheeses and meat-free meats today, including our local The Herbivorous Butcher and Punk Rawk Labs. You could even try some tempeh by Tempeh Tantrum!
- Connect with those most impacted by the farming industrial complex by visiting a farm sanctuary. We’re lucky to have a number of sanctuaries local to the Twin Cities doing important rehabilitative and educational work, including Farmaste Animal Sanctuary, Spring Farm Sanctuary, Rooster Redemption, SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary, and more.
- Watch a documentary with friends! There are so many documentaries out there today covering topics like our societal dependency on consuming animals, the health impacts of a plant-based diet, and the environmental impact of our consumer tendencies, including The End of Meat, Cowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks Over Knives.
- Share your story of compassion and change with us this season!
- Raise awareness. Lend a book on plant-based living to a friend or leave a few leaflets or a magazine in a public waiting room. You never know who might pick it up!
- Download the VeGuide app, developed by the Vegan Society to get you started (or to continue) on your vegan journey!
- Support local, plant-based, Twin Cities businesses! One great way to get to know the Twin Cities vegan scene and celebrate fall is coming up this Sunday––come to the Plant Based Showcase at Lake Monster Brewing! Read more about the vendors on our blog.
You may have met Abraham Rowe at one of our events or on our blog. Since 2016, Abraham has been heavily involved with CAA, volunteering at our annual banquet, our chili cookoff, postering, potlucks, town halls, Twin Cities Pride, pay-per-view video outreach, food giveaways, and more. In April 2017, he joined our board and then became Board President.
Abraham found out about CAA through a vegan speed-friending event held in a basement in Minneapolis about a week he moved to Minnesota in 2016. “I actually met Laura Matanah (CAA’s Executive Director) there and we started talking about CAA and really connected.”
Throughout his time with CAA, he’s had a chance to see the many faces of outreach and impact CAA has on the Twin Cities community. He’s also helped shape our work.
“As a volunteer, I always liked pay-per-view because you could talk with people about what they saw. Many people are deeply impacted by seeing cruelty footage,” said Abraham. “The reality is that around 90% of the meat sold and consumed in the United States is factory farmed and seeing that up close is super shocking for people.”
“I like the idea of us having a model for food policy work [with Wholesome Minnesota] where we train people who already have trusted relationships with people with institutions to basically make the change themselves in their own community. It’s been really cool to see so many advocates in that space and people get really excited about ways they could bring it into their schools and hospitals.”
Something CAA did last year was a giant strategic planning process led by Laura as she joined the organization as Executive Director. “I think now, we have a very clear vision of what our path is moving forward and where we’re trying to be and what that will look like. I look forward to that being implemented and realized.”
This November, Abraham will move to New York City for his work with Mercy For Animals. He will, however, continue to be involved with CAA.
Abraham runs Mercy for Animals’ US and Canadian Corporate Campaigns Program. His work focuses on getting restaurant companies to adopt animal welfare policies in their animal supply chains to ban cruel practices used on farmed animals.
“The reality is that corporations have the power over the lives of hundreds of millions of animals and an individual company choosing how to source its animal products can completely change the lives of these animals and reduce their suffering and that’s really important to me. It’s not the end goal, but it’s also important to do what we can in the meantime for these animals,” said Abraham.
Animal rights groups noticed that they were targeting corporations individually with separate campaigns throughout the 90s and early 2000s with little action on the corporations’ part.
“One would be going after Costco to try to get them to ban gestation crates, one would be going after Domino’s to try to get them to add vegan cheese––and none of them worked,” said Abraham. “The thing that ended up getting these companies to make these massive transitions was every single animal rights group getting together and saying, ‘We’re all going to do this one thing right now and focus on that,’ and we successfully did that in the US with battery cages for egg-laying hens. The vast majority of the supply of battery caged egg-laying hens will be gone by 2025 when the companies follow through with their pledges and now we’re doing it with chickens raised for meat.”
“Right now, we’re arguing against corporate greed and that’s not an argument that is won often. We can’t become too complacent and just assume that things will work out because there’s cheap plant-based meat in the future,” says Abraham. “It’s going to be a hard fight to get there.”
Personal or consumer boycotts as well as larger campaigns targeting corporations add up to massive collective change for the lives of animals.
“It’s incredibly important to support local community animal advocacy groups like CAA that are interested in nonviolence and are meeting people where they’re at, being compassionate and kind towards others, and demonstrating that this is an accessible, cheap, and pleasant lifestyle,” says Abraham.
“Something that CAA does that’s really unique is it’s focus on empowering individuals to become leaders in their community, to step up and organize events for themselves or host events or take on a committee role. Twin Cities VegFest this year was entirely organized by this volunteer committee, and that’s really cool to see that many volunteers come together to put on this massive event. I like that CAA does individual outreach and then institutional outreach with programs like Wholesome Minnesota because I think that can have a really big impact too.”
“I think the reality is that the blame for factory farming existing lies in for-profit companies wanting to become more efficient and make more money, ultimately, but I also think we have to recognize that we both have to be pushing against that corporate power and one of the best way to do that is consumer boycotts which is essentially what veganism is, it’s a boycott of corporate structures that profit off of using animals in that way.”
His advice for students looking to start a student group? “Get connected. Email a national group or an organization like CAA and ask for resources because there’s a ton of people around who are excited to help and will help. Don’t try to do it alone.”
Abraham plans to visit the Twin Cities regularly and will continue being involved with the CAA Board. He’s looking forward to learning more about the NYC vegan scene and trying out new restaurants, but he’ll miss the Twin Cities scene as well, including May Day Café, Muddy Waters, The Herbivorous Butcher, and On’s Thai Kitchen.
We’re so glad to have Abraham on our board of directors and look forward to seeing how his work in animal advocacy shapes a kinder, happier future for farmed animals.
Are you interested in becoming a member of our board of directors? For more information, contact Laura Matanah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for one more opportunity to feast on plant-based food truck eats before winter comes?
Featuring food vendors and other plant-based entrepreneurs at Lake Monster Brewing, this event is for all––veg and veg-curious.
All three vegan Twin Cities food trucks (Reverie Cafe + Bar, The Herbivorous Butcher Food Truck, and The J. Mobile) will be there to satisfy your sweet, savory, and possibly even your breakfast tooth before going off to their deep winter slumber.
In true festival fashion, continue celebrating the vibrant and growing Twin Cities plant-based scene with a growing list of vendors, including:
- Coconut Whisk Baking Co. creates simple and clean vegan, gluten-free, and allergen-friendly baking mixes. Their core beliefs that food connects people, that no one should miss out due to allergies or lifestyle choices, and supporting and giving back to the voiceless is what powers their sweet mission.
- Crepe & Spoon is a vegan ice cream and crepe shop in Northeast Minneapolis. They design seasonally-inspired savory crepes and sweet dessert crepes alongside a rotating selection of handcrafted ice cream, relying on high-quality and local ingredients.
- Ethique Nouveau is a Minneapolis-based boutique dedicated to providing their customers with unique, high-quality designer products that do not rely on animal testing, ingredients, skins, or furs.
- Kelska Blu is an online vegan boutique that carries natural, handmade, vegan, and cruelty-free home goods, bath and body, skincare, hair care, and accessories.
- Noble Soap Gallery is a maker of all natural, sustainable, handmade vegan soap based in NE Minneapolis. They are committed to reducing their carbon footprint, offering free bicycle delivery to anyone in Minneapolis and using biodegradable labels and packaging.
- PLNT BSD creates comfortable and stylish apparel using vegan materials and ink that is not tested on animals. Their aim is to start more conversations about the benefits of a plant-based diet and lifestyle by spreading their positive messaging.
- Prairie Vegan Pies focuses on pies, but they also fulfill custom orders for cakes, cheesecakes, tarts, and cookies. Everything is made from scratch and is 100% vegan!
- Rawr Organics created the Rawr Bar, the ultimate vegan, paleo-friendly bar with a mission to support and feed starving children. Made with eight high quality, organic ingredients, this protein-packed bar will keep you fueled and satisfied throughout the day.
- Robin Asbell is a plant-based chef, author, and instructor located in the Minneapolis area. She has authored eight books and speaks about whole grains and eating well to various groups throughout the year.
- Sweet Root Mpls creates dairy-free and vegan desserts, focusing on using organic, fair trade, non-GMO, natural ingredients, and food dyes whenever possible.
- Tempeh Tantrum hand makes fresh East Javanese-style tempeh in small batches for the Twin Cities and beyond. Starting with local organic soybeans, they culture them and follow a customized fermentation process that transforms the soybeans into a firm, savory cake that can be cooked in a variety of ways.
- Vegan East creates vegan cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, quiche, rolls, and cheesecakes, with several gluten-free options. They have locations in uptown Minneapolis and downtown White Bear Lake.
The Plant Based Showcase will take place rain or snow and is zero-waste. Lake Monster has plenty of space to keep you warm and dry. We encourage you to bring your own utensils and reusable napkins.
Lake Monster Brewing has a parking lot and overflow street parking. The majority of their beer is vegan, except for their Murmur Milk Stout, Raspberry Berliner, and Sour Red. Attending the Plant Based Showcase is free, but all of the vendors are selling food or goods. Cards are accepted but cash is preferred.
Compassionate Action for Animals is a proud co-sponsor of the event. Volunteers are needed to help staff the CAA table. If you’d like to help out, please contact email@example.com.
Invite your friends and keep up-to-date on the Facebook event page.
On Saturday, October 13th, U of M students and other CAA community members had the exciting opportunity to tour SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary and interact with their residents.
SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary is in New Richmond, WI. Located about 45 minutes from Minneapolis, SoulSpace is a local farm sanctuary doing the crucial work of rehabilitating farm animal rescues and educating their surrounding communities about the impact of industrialized animal agriculture.
Upon arrival, the visitors met Kara Breci, founder and executive director of SoulSpace. Kara founded SoulSpace about three years ago after retiring from the St. Paul Police Department due to an injury. Since its start, the sanctuary has grown to house 45 rescued farm animals and be supported by over 100 volunteers. Each year, the sanctuary hosts a number of events to raise awareness about cruelty against farmed animals and to show others how to live in a more compassionate way.
Kara led the group around the facility to meet some of the sanctuary’s 45 animal residents. Each one has a unique story, which Kara was delighted to share with the visitors.
The tour met London the pig, whom Kara described as the “sassiest resident,” and Frederick the sheep. Frederick spent the first three months of his life in a trailer with a litter of puppies. All were so neglected that the puppies chewed off one of his ears. Today, Frederick loves to eat bananas and still thinks he’s a dog instead of a sheep.
Visitors also met Wally, another one of the sanctuary’s rescued pigs. Wally made headlines about 19 months ago after jumping out of a truck headed to a slaughterhouse in South Dakota. Luckily, Wally did not suffer any major injuries and is now very happy in his new home at SoulSpace.
Throughout the tour, Amos, a 24-year-old donkey curiously followed the group around the sanctuary. In his younger years, Amos was forced to give rides to children and later became a companion animal. Today, he enjoys taking selfies with visitors at SoulSpace.
The group encountered many more animals as well, including hens, roosters, peacocks, ducks, turkeys, dogs, and a cat. Kara explained that each animal has their own personality, and often surprise people with how friendly and affectionate they are.
At the end of the tour, Kara explained that the goals of the sanctuary are to educate others about cruelty against farmed animals and to encourage individuals to make more compassionate choices. Kara and the SoulSpace residents aim to show their visitors that farm animals have a lot in common with some of the more familiar companion animals and hope that this will encourage people to consider more closely the impacts of their food and lifestyle choices.
One of the most amazing things about this sanctuary is how friendly and loving all the animals are. Each one was ecstatic to receive visitors, which shows that farmed animals have much more in common with companion animals than most people think.
Each day, sanctuaries like SoulSpace receive housing requests for newly rescued animals. As it currently stands, there is not enough sanctuary space to give care to all of the animals that need it. The more people that are aware of this issue, the more support the sanctuaries will receive, and others will begin to spread the message of compassion toward animals.
Right now, sanctuaries need our support. SoulSpace and other spaces like it prove that education and compassion really do make a difference in the lives of their residents, visitors, and the billions of farmed animals currently living in abusive and inhumane conditions.
SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary hosts tours every Saturday along with camps, volunteer workdays, and many other events. Visit soulspacesanctuary.org for more information on how SoulSpace is continuing their quest to save farmed animals from cruelty.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when the next board meeting will take place.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.