Animal Place Veganic Farm: Summer and Fall 2012 Update from Dr. Greg Litus

Thanks to support from VegFund, Animal Place Veganic Farm has truly thrived this season. The micro-farm experiment evolved into a definitive farm with the sale of produce to visitors and vegan restaurants. Efforts in community outreach and education have expanded to include public workshops, farm tours, elementary school connections and a live-in farm internship program.

Farm to School

Farm to School is a USDA funded program in Nevada County that promotes healthy eating through partnerships with local small farms. As a partner farm with a local elementary school, Animal Place stocks an after-school garden cart with fresh, veganic produce. The cart makes healthy eating accessible for student and their families and promotes veganism through the Animal Place brochures and newsletters that are displayed with the cart.

Third grade and sixth grade students will visit the sanctuary this autumn and next spring as an educational field trip, meeting all of the resident animal ambassadors, helping with age-appropriate activities in the veganic farm, and completing program lesson plans on plant anatomy and insects found on the farm.

Restaurants

The veganic farm has generated income for the sanctuary with the sale of vegetables to two vegan restaurants in the Sacramento area and one vegetarian café in Nevada City. Selling to vegan and vegetarian businesses has opened up a new channel of promotion for Animal Place, while spreading the message of compassion to an audience that may have originally patronized the restaurant for health reasons. The partnership with businesses also allows us to sustain the farm financially while offering restaurants and their customers the choice to go veganic.

This season we have sold tomatoes, basil, green beans, kale, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and eggplant, and in the process have learned the logistics necessary for restaurant customers – pricing, a certified scale, packaging, delivery and the estimation of crop availability.

Farm Stand Fundraising

Animal Place debuted the veganic farm stand at the annual fundraiser, Music in the Meadow, on September 22nd.  Hand-painted signs welcomed over 400 visitors with phrases like “Peace Love Veg!”, inciting the curious to ask about the definition of veganic, the purpose of the model farm at Animal Place and the ethics and how-to’s of food production. The veganic farm generated an additional $800 in produce sales and donations for the sanctuary.

 

 

 

Visitors

Animal Place is open to the public for both guided and self-guided tours on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Visitors are welcome to roam the wide aisles of the veganic farm and marvel over the bounty and luster of our crops. Many visitors are surprised to learn about the option of veganic agriculture, and ask questions to our staff and volunteer farm team. Guided sanctuary tours now include an overview of the veganic farm, sometimes stopping for awhile to pick sweet, cruelty-free strawberries. This summer we also hosted a tour and Q&A for the Master Gardeners group of Sacramento.

Internships and Volunteers

This year Animal Place introduced a live-in internship program for activists to learn and contribute to programs in animal care, advocacy and the vegan farm. Three consecutive interns joined the veganic farm team during the busy months of June to September. Interns were an invaluable addition in the field, and without their help the expansion of the farm would not have been possible. Interns also tabled at outreach events, engaged in organized discussions about animal rights with Animal Place staff and visited other sanctuaries. One intern has gone on to work as a caretaker at the House Rabbit Society in Richmond, CA, where she applies her new skills by growing bunny food in their backyard garden.

The veganic farm also attracts all kinds of volunteers, including local gardeners, an animal rights advocate all the way from Australia and a team from Americorps.

Outreach and Education

 Staff horticulturist Greg Litus presented a workshop on veganic farming at Eco-Life Festival in Grass Valley. The festival itself was not well attended, but Greg’s workshop drew in at least one dozen attendees. Greg’s account of the Turlock hen rescue and how it relates to feather meal used in many organic farms was particularly affecting to one local woman who, although not vegan, had come to the workshop to learn about soil inputs that did not originate from factory farms. Greg’s workshop, while hard-hitting on the cruel facts of animal-based inputs, hit on all the practical points of compassionate, plant-based farming and encouraged attendees to just go veganic.

 In June, Animal Place hosted a screening of the film Vegucated in Nevada City. Veganic lettuce, chard and kale were offered on a donation basis before and after the film, completely selling out after guest speaker Dr. Don Forrester answered audience questions about health and veganism.

 Future Seasons

 With the financial support from VegFund, we were able to accomplish all of this and still share much of our produce for free with the community; we have donated produce to a local homeless organization, supplemented the catering at Animal Place fundraising events and most importantly nourished our non-human animals at the sanctuary with food grown on the same land that they take refuge. Thank you, VegFund, for contributing to our success and giving us the experience and confidence to move forward with the veganic farm next season.

In 2013 we will continue with the outreach and sales markets established this year, with the restaurant, school and special events.  We are not yet financially self-sustaining, but that is our ultimate goal in proving that veganic agriculture is a viable option for other farmers.

Our goals for 2013 include:

  • Obtaining an organic certification,
  • Starting produce sales at farmer’s markets while educating the public about veganic agriculture,
  • Promoting veganic agriculture through increased outreach in local schools and events,
  • Establishing an on-site farm stand to draw more visitors to the sanctuary and
  • Expanding our offerings to additional vegan restaurants.

Part 1: Honor Your Vegan Story

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McKee

As activists, we are all teachers, and one of the best tools is within you right now- your story! The facts about animal suffering and the plethora of information about the benefits of veganism are critically important to share. But for many people, personal experiences leave more of an impression than statistics about billions of animals they can’t see or hear. As activists, every little seed that’s planted is integral to inspiring people and creating fertile ground for receptiveness to change. Your unique story, which isn’t in any of the literature you distribute, may be the best catalyst for change.

What can sharing your personal story do?

  • Reduce feelings of defensiveness; by using “I” statements, you avoid being judgmental and focus on your individual experience without preaching.
  • Help re-connect people to the compassion within themselves and ignite a desire to learn more.
  • Dismantle stereotypes of vegans that the general public may harbor (“It’s too difficult”…”I’d miss this and that too much”…”How would I get my protein?”…).
  • Allow others to see you as a thinking, feeling person with experiences that shaped your choices.
  • Open others up to share something about themselves – ask questions.
  • Make people feel less judged and more comfortable about asking you questions they wouldn’t have otherwise.

When engaging in activism, we often only have a brief time to connect with someone.  Whether it’s 15 seconds or five minutes, consider the key pieces of your story. You can share a lot in 15 or 30 seconds! For starters, you can tell someone the pivotal moment or milestones that persuaded you to choose a vegan diet. For some of us, there were moments in our life that  brought us closer to veganism; a piece of literature, a film, a friend, a book, etc. Others decided at the family dinner table one winter night and never looked back. I know someone who went to a bookstore, randomly opened up a biography, read two pages, and went home to clear her fridge of all animal products.

Below are some key tips on making your story as compelling as possible.

Find Your Vegan Tagline- This is the nucleus of your story around which its details revolve. Colleen Patrick Goudreau offered this gem: “I’m vegan because I don’t want to contribute to violence against animals, which goes against my ethics. It feels so good to manifest my values in my everyday life.” If that sentiment rings true for you, but it’s not the way you’d say it, develop one to two sentences that reflect your perspective.

Be honest- Maybe you grew up in an Italian family and missed lasagna when you first went vegan. Tell the truth. It creates an opportunity to mention new products, such as  Daiya, etc. Perhaps you felt isolated in the beginning but joined a local group and met many other vegans with whom to share recipes or have dinner. Maybe you transformed your health by losing weight or getting off some medications. Tout the positives but don’t be afraid to share the challenges and how you have coped with them.

Gently Dismantle Assumptions- Most of us didn’t grow up vegan. We grew up eating animals and didn’t question it. If that’s true for you, sharing it opens a door for those who assume you came out of the womb with tofu in one hand and celery in the other.

Here are some questions you can reflect on for expanding your story to further connect with other potential vegans:

  • Did you know any vegetarians or vegans growing up?
  • What were your perceptions of being vegan before you became one?
  • Do you have a poignant memory of an experience with a farmed animal who was suffering or living in peace at a sanctuary?
  • How did you transition? Was it easy/challenging and why?
  • How do you feel being vegan? You can speak to health, emotions, knowing that your life is honestly aligned with your values, etc.

Sharing your personal story is one of the most potent forms of  activism. If someone connects with even a small piece or detail of it, they are connecting to veganism that much more.

ADVERTISING 101: Promoting Your Events

By Elana Kirshenbaum, VegFund’s fall 2012 intern

Often the best way to learn about anything in life is through your mistakes. Years ago, when I began doing vegan advocacy, I didn’t know much about advertising and hadn’t considered what it takes to attract people to events. I’ll never forget our first outreach fundraiser: a huge yard and bake sale planned at a local church.  An abundant array of gently used items from knick knacks to small appliances filled the large space, vegan baked goods and free literature lined a long table and delicious fruit smoothies were ready to be blended. Additional clothes for sale outside were arranged to entice pedestrians inside. Volunteers who sweated for days preparing waited and waited but the crowds weren’t coming. The problem? The only thing we did to advertise our event was email an announcement to our members and place a paid classified ad in a major newspaper- and they they forgot to print it!

Well, we never made that mistake again and learned to embrace diverse advertising strategies as one of the key critical elements in our event planning. If you find yourself frustrated by a low turnout or are unsure how best to spread the word, read on. First and foremost, a good publicity plan takes time and commitment. The good news is that while many people assume effective advertising costs big bucks, the reality is that the savvy activist need not spend any money or very little at all.  

Consider Your Space!

Location is Key: Networking with other established venues (universities/student groups, holistic education centers, festivals, theatres, conferences) can be a great strategy. For example, if you’re planning a film screening, libraries will work but you will probably have a much better turnout if you approach a local movie theatre who may be willing to donate the space or charge a nominal fee.  They already have a dedicated space for screening films, maintain a customer base, attract people who like films, and typically have an advertising platform already online, onsite and in print that you can take advantage of for your event.

Print & Post!

Flyers, Posters & Postcards: Paint the town with eye catching advertising 1-2 weeks before the event. These can be easily created on a computer and printed locally. Perhaps there’s a volunteer who has some graphic design experience or enjoys creating flyers. For design tips, pay attention to posters that stand out among the crowd and learn from them. For postcards, consider using an online vendor such as Vistaprint. Team up and split up to cover targeted restaurants, movie theatres, community and health centers, markets, libraries, universities etc.

Work That Computer!

Email: Send a colorful email announcement to friends, family, supporters, environmental and animal rescue organizations, local vegan friendly businesses etc. to let them know the specifics about the event, requesting that they help spread the word. Consider sending out an initial announcement a month ahead and then about three catchy reminders.

Stir It Up on Facebook & Twitter: Create a Facebook event with all the relevant information about a month before and invite everyone. Continue the buzz about the event on Facebook and Twitter by highlighting a special guest, some food to be served, the awards a film has won etc.

Web Networking: If you have a website, post your flyer, web banner or event announcement on your website and ask viewers to spread the word. Reach out to animal and environmentally friendly organizations and blogs to see if they would be willing to post an announcement that you provide.

What’s Going On Calendars: There are a number of sites that have general Calendars of Events, just like newspapers.  Some of these are aimed at particular markets, such as tourists, and some are put up as a public service by municipalities or government agencies. You can typically email a contact person or submit an event online through a specific form that is provided.

Get In On The News!

Press Releases: Also known as a news release or a media release, press releases are a written or recorded communication submitted to the news media. They can be faxed or emailed to newspapers, magazines, and radio stations but there are often submission deadlines so do your research ahead of time. And yes, many people still read the newspaper and other local publications to find out what’s going on in the community. If you’ve never written a press release, there’s a specific and uncomplicated format to follow.

News Articles: Wouldn’t it be great to have an article written about your event- before it happens?  How do you entice reporters to pay attention? After sending a press release, follow up to pitch your event. Generate interest by linking it to other recent news i.e. a story on farmed animal cruelty, obesity statistics in this country, a celebrity or politician who went vegan, a new vegan restaurant getting rave reviews in the area etc. Be mindful of the larger cause and what’s at stake so you can communicate effectively. If you have a special guest or prominent person in the community involved in your event, ask if him or her if they would be willing to do some pre-publicity.

Radio Announcements / Interviews: Many local, community and college radio stations will happily air a brief public service announcement for charitable events. After sending a press release, follow up with a public service announcement after inquiring about any required criteria. Some stations prefer to have their staff read the announcement on air. Others may assist you in making an announcement for free or charge a small fee to cover their time and costs.

Final Tips

  • Be realistic: While you may not be able to fully act on all the advertising tips offered, don’t worry.  Consider what will be most effective for your event and what you or your team has the time to do.
  • Be clear & accurate: Watch out for spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure materials contain all the necessary information. Make sure your wording is clear, direct, and easy to understand.
  • Do Some Homework: Set up a comprehensive document with all your advertising resources such as newspapers, radio stations, organizations, blogs, and flyer drop off sites. By having contacts in one place, you can efficiently develop and execute a publicity plan and delegate tasks to others.
  • Delegate Effectively: People will be more likely to help you advertise if you ask specific people to take care of specific tasks than if you ask for general help.
  • Check Your List Twice: Create an advertising checklist and timeline in a program like excel where you track who, what and when for your advertising plan.
  • Save Yourself Time: Use the process of promoting your event to build and edit your media contacts and advertising resources for next time.
  • Stay Organized and Save: If you plan to do similar events regularly, save all your files of flyer designs, email announcements, advertising checklists, press releases etc. You can easily edit these for future events which will save so much time!

Successful advertising pays off immeasurably as it honors your hard work and allows you to have a greater impact on advancing veganism in the world. So be creative and be bold as you entice the public to show up!

Sept/Oct 2012 Volunteer Spotlight: Vegan Cast and Crew

(From left to right: Lalena, Jessica, Steven, Nick)

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

We’re pleased to recognize a dedicated group of vegan activists who produced the first ever instructional videos for our Food Sampling and Pay Per View grant programs! These short and engaging how-to videos cover important tips on running successful outreach events from start to finish.

Lalena Gieser wrote and edited the educational video scripts. Her professional interests include screenwriting, communications, and web design. For the past 8 years, Lalena has enjoyed living a vegan lifestyle and generously donates her time to animal rights causes.

Jessica Resnik is featured as an actor in the educational videos and assisted the director. She enjoys acting, writing, and dancing and is pursuing a career in marketing. Jessica has been vegan for nearly 3 years and maintains a vegan food blog.

Steven Todd Smith played a starring role in the educational videos. He’s been vegan for 3 years and stays busy with a number of outreach projects. In addition to acting, writing, and blogging, he is also the Community Manager for Forks Over Knives and the Owner/CEO of Ahimsa Life Coaching.

Nick Somers directed, filmed, and edited the educational videos. Nick is a professional actor and filmmaker and often volunteers his time to help with worthy projects. He’s followed a 95% vegan diet since 2002, and three years ago he went fully vegan.

It was a pleasure working with this team of talented activists, and we’re grateful for the time and effort they put into producing the videos. Be sure to check out the videos on the Food Sampling and Pay Per View introductory pages!