Activist Spotlight: Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach held a Food Sampling stall at their local Earth Day festival in April, reaching 50 environmentally-concerned people with lots of wonderful vegan food and educational literature! Activists served Daiya and Field Roast products as well as choc chip cookies, and they distributed Compassion Over Killing’s ‘Eating Sustainably’ and Vegan Outreach’s ‘Compassionate Choices’ literature.

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach -  Earth Day Festival 2016

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach
Earth Day Festival 2016

VegFund spoke with group founder, Lauren to find out more…

VegFund: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach: Going vegan itself inspired me to be involved in spreading the message. Once educated on the issues, I felt compelled to share the information, to advance the movement. I credit the Sonoma County vegan community for initially engaging that desire. From there, I felt empowered to strike out on my own and keep it up.

VF: What other activism and/or vegan events have you been involved in?

LVCO: I have enjoyed tabling and leafleting on a semi-regular basis. When I last moved to an area with no vegan groups, I decided to start one, Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach.

VF: What were some of the common responses and/or discussions you had during this event?

LVCO: On the occasion of Earth Day, I often opened up discussions referencing the environmental impacts of food choices. Since all attendees had just participated in a river and neighborhood clean-up, I figured (correctly) that they were more open to vegan food than the overall local population. Many women presented a casual interest, but it was men especially who exclaimed with pleasant surprise upon tasting the samples.

VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

LVCO: The highlight was being swarmed by a group of middle-schoolers, all of whom loved the samples and readily took the informational brochures and one of whom explained that when she’s done “growing up” and allowed (by her parents or of an independent age), she plans on becoming vegan. She spoke eloquently about dairy milk being for the calves, so I have faith in her, but she was running off when I wanted to explain away any nutritional concerns; so my husband yelled out, “keep influencing your friends!”

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

LVCO: The only limiting factor was the attendance, but it was expected for a town of its population, but capitalizing on a community event that attracted eco-conscious people was a great opportunity nonetheless.

VF: Do you have any quotes/paraphrases from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

LVCO: My advice is to work with your situation. As I currently live in a relatively sparse and sprawling area, I still can make a difference in the local communities. One can plant seeds, reach out, and create change anywhere.

There are many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you! Please read our Grant Programs Overview for information on the types of grants available and how to apply.

 

Exploring Vegan Outreach Around the World (Part 3)

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

Welcome to the third and final part of this series. Today we’ll be learning about the work of UK-based Midlands Vegan Campaigns and Animal Equality, originally founded in Spain but now active across the globe.

Midlands Vegan Campaigns:

We interviewed founder Kevin White to find out more about Midlands Vegan Campaigns’ wonderful vegan festivals and their collaboration with other local outreach groups.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

KW: The West Midlands Vegan Festival, coming up on Saturday 26th October, is now in its 6th year. With over 100 stalls, 20 talks, cookery demos, live entertainment throughout the day and so on, and 2,000 visitors last year, it has become the biggest annual grassroots vegan festival in the UK! Feedback forms consistently tell us that half of those attending are non-vegans, which demonstrates the huge curiosity in the vegan lifestyle, and we know of many who have since become vegan.

When not staging vegan fairs and festivals, I run an online and mobile confectionery ‘shop’ known as Lakeside Ethical Treats. I often hold stalls at events, everything from local green fairs and sanctuary open days to national animal rights rallies and vegan fairs across the UK. The idea is threefold: to fundraise for our events; promote our events via posters and leaflets; and to promote veganism itself by showcasing the vast array of ethical chocolate, sweets and snacks now available. I believe Lakeside Ethical Treats is the biggest mobile vegan confectionery shop in the world!

VF: Is there an event or person that has particularly inspired you?

KW: A good friend of mine, Neil Lea, who is sadly no longer around, was a prolific animal rights/vegan campaigner (regarded by many as a ‘vegan visionary’). He once suggested I should get more involved in vegan event organising, and he also expressed a desire to see a Midlands group formed specifically to organise vegan fairs and more. Sadly, Neil passed away in July 2007. Within weeks of his death, I founded Midlands Vegan Campaigns in his memory and we staged our first events later that year.

VF: What are the biggest challenges you face with organizing a vegan festival?

KW: Once upon a time, the biggest challenge in organising a vegan fair may have been how to attract people through the door. Not so anymore. Now the main challenge is finding central venues big enough to hold all the stallholders and visitors who wish to attend!

Good venues in town and city centres may be pricey, but this alone shouldn’t put you off. If you’ve never organised a fair before, I would suggest hiring a smaller venue initially. But work towards hiring the biggest central venue available, and recoup the money by booking as many stallholders as possible, run a tombola/raffle, sell cakes, put donation tins around the venue and so on.

VF: Does Midlands Vegan Campaigns have any plans to expand?

KW: This year, Midlands Vegan Campaigns has collaborated with various other groups, including Worcestershire Vegans & Veggies, Coventry Vegans, and Birmingham Animal Action. For each event, members of the local group have coordinated the free food sample table and publicised the fair locally, leaving Midlands Vegan Campaigns to deal with other tasks, such as booking stallholders, designing and printing leaflets, updating the event website and wider publicity. This has proved to be extremely effective, enabling us to organise more events than ever before. This strategy is certainly something we intend to repeat and hope it will lead to even more vegan events across the West Midlands.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?

KW: Go for it! The general public is increasingly curious about vegan lifestyles, so we need to take full advantage of this by organising more and more vegan outreach events. I believe we should aim to stage annual vegan festivals in every single city, and every town should host free vegan food fairs. Don’t say it can’t be done in your town, because it can. All it takes is a bit of hard work and determination and people will flock.

If you’re interested in staging a festival or food fair of any size in your area, then a great way to gain some experience is to volunteer your time at other events, i.e. serving food samples; offer advice about nutrition; cooking; setting up/packing away; washing up. For all our events volunteers are crucial, particularly the West Midlands Vegan Festival, where we need a team of over 50 volunteers throughout the day.

There is a direct correlation between the amount of positive vegan activism and the number of people going vegan so let’s get more active and speed up progress to a vegan world. Step outside your comfort zone, learn new skills and give 110% – the animals deserve no less!

VF: How do activists get in touch with you if they wish to get involved?

KW: We would love to hear from anyone wishing to volunteer at Midlands Vegan Campaigns events. Please email volunteers[at]veganmidlands[dot]org[dot]uk. Volunteer at the West Midlands Vegan Festival and your lunch will be provided.

Animal Equality                                                                                                                                

We got in touch with campaigns director Laura Gough who shared with us some inspirational stories and provided useful information that can be applied to our activism.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

LG: We believe that doing outreach is a positive way to bring people closer to the animal rights movement, as they are able to see and interact with activists first-hand. The general public can talk and ask any doubts they have, which helps to break down myths and prejudices about a vegan lifestyle. In many cases we are able to make people empathise with the suffering of other animals by showing them images, or providing them with literature or vegan food samples, all enabling positive conversation about veganism.

VF: Could you provide us with one example of an event that particularly inspired you?

LG: I remember some years ago, while I was at an info-stall, a woman approached us thinking we were a shelter. She explained that she was helping and volunteering for some dog shelters, and that she felt emotionally very close to these animals. She had rescued more than 10 animals, and had found safe homes for them all. While she explained her story you could see how she also understood how animals could feel, and experienced the world in a similar way humans do. This led the conversation towards me explaining how I felt the same way, after I had seen hens being rescued from farms, and how they experienced their freedom for the first time. A few months after, I saw this woman at a march, she told me she had gone vegan a few days after the conversation, and that she wanted to do more for animals.

VF: What are your biggest challenges faced with this form of outreach?

LG: It’s important and necessary to learn how to optimise our resources and time. We need to analyse which is our target audience, and focus on it to be able to measure our impact. As an example, studies prove that people in universities are more open to changes, and are more willing to go vegan when handed literature, than other audiences. Social psychology studies provide us with objective information about how we can tailor our message and become more effective, and we should always be willing to try new formulas, or ways to approach people. Activism is a constant learning process.

VF: Do you have any plans to expand on this activism?

LG: We are always developing our ways of communicating with the public. It is very important that activists always keep in mind that by doing vegan outreach, we are planting a “seed” in society, and full results might not be seen immediately. This may demoralise at first, but we need to be aware that long-term work and results will start to show as people start to support the cause and become more involved in the movement.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?

LG: When we communicate in a positive way this is what we project to the public. As activists we must become aware that we are the first impression a lot of people will receive from the animal rights movement, and it is our responsibility to try to engage and motivate people and not to cause rejection.

VF: How do activists get in touch with you if they wish to get involved?

LG: Anyone who wants to support or collaborate with Animal Equality can send an email to info[at]animalequality[dot]net.

We would like to thank Midlands Vegan Campaigns and Animal Equality for taking the time to share their outreach experiences with us and for providing us with some very encouraging and inspiring information.

This blog series, consisting of five interviews from activists across the globe, has shown how diverse vegan outreach can be. No matter what your strengths and weaknesses are, there is always something you can do to bring about positive change. We all have a place within this movement and have the ability to develop fresh and unique outreach ideas that will inspire and reach the hearts of the public, engaging them with our message. Get creative and get out there! Each step will be a learning experience and will provide you with the opportunity to improve upon your advocacy skills. There are many other grassroots activists willing to offer support and guidance, so make the most of this and work towards building an even stronger vegan movement.

And remember, VegFund has three different programs that you can apply to for support. Whether you need funding for a food sampling event; video outreach such as a film screening, Pay Per View or online campaign; or if you are looking to develop a program such as a vegan mentor scheme, you are welcome to apply. Check out the Programs Section of the VegFund website for more information.

Interview with Adrienne Lusk, Texas VegFest Organizer

By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

Adrienne Lusk, director of the Texas VegFest and vice president of the Texas Veg Foundation, recently took time out of her busy schedule to chat with VegFund about the upcoming event. 

 

 

 

VF: With the festival just around the corner, we’re thrilled to have the chance to talk with you. Can you start by giving us a general overview?   

AL: We have a fantastic event planned for 2013! This year’s event will be held on Saturday April 6th from 11am-6pm at beautiful Fiesta Gardens, right off the lake. We are expecting 5,000 attendees for this event. With all of our activities, sponsors, vendors, speakers, demos, and of course great food and live music, Texas VegFest will be an event that you don’t want to miss!

VF: How did the Texas VegFest begin?

AL: It began as an idea that our now President, Angela Ramsammy, posted on the main vegan community forum of the area, Vegans Rock Austin. The idea was perfect timing for me as I was looking to do an event focusing on veganism but did not have a team. A group of us met in January of 2011 to begin going over the logistics, possible locations, and our ideas for this event. After several months of discussion and fine tuning the team, the foundation incorporated in July 2011, and the festival became an actuality.

VF: What inspired the Texas Veg Foundation to organize the event?

AL: Austin is a city that always has something going on. With such a vibrant scene and a welcoming–as well as rather large–veg community, it was hard to believe that something like this was not already going on in the city. In a sense, that was the inspiration. We wanted to create something good enough to be included in the city’s historic events, something that encompassed what the city represented and offered. The well-networked, plant-based community in central Texas needed to be showcased.

VF: Last year’s festival was a huge success. Did you expect it to be so popular?

AL: Absolutely not. Our staff was confident that the local vegan community would be there in support, but we did not expect the overwhelming support we received from attendees who were not vegan or vegetarian, who were there to learn more about cruelty-free lifestyles, or those who came from other states and counties. It was definitely a surprise, and I am so glad we could meet the expectations.

VF: What’s been the biggest hurdle?

AL: The biggest hurdle is always weather, but we won’t even go into that! During the planning process, the biggest challenge is fundraising and allocating the funds to be able to deliver the foundation’s mission effectively. Another stressor is making sure to provide the sponsors, vendors, speakers, demonstrators, volunteers, and attendees everything we promise and that all of these parties are communicating with each other.

VF: What do you enjoy most about running the VegFest?

AL: I actually enjoy the logistical aspects and networking of the planning portion. The people I network with are very passionate, and it is such a great feeling to see them be so supportive of Texas VegFest. I also get to learn a whole lot about how the city, county, state, and businesses run. However, THE most enjoyable part of planning Texas VegFest 2012 was during the peak time of the event around 3pm. The event seemed to take on its own form and ran on its own. I was finally able to take a step back and watch all of the months and months of planning at work in full swing. It was an amazing feeling.

VF: What advice do you have for an activist who is thinking of starting a VegFest in his or her community?

AL: Be organized! This cannot be stressed enough.

VF: If people want to volunteer for the Texas VegFest, whom should they contact? 

AL: There is still time to sign up to be a volunteer. Not only do volunteers get to work with a group of fantastic people, but they also get an official shirt designed by Herbivore Clothing Company, a special VIP swag bag, and a party in their honor where there will be some great prizes raffled, like a Vitamix 5200! Individuals interested in volunteering can complete the Volunteer form on our website. One of our volunteer coordinators will get in touch shortly. Or, potential volunteers can email us directly at: info[at]texasvegfest[dot]com.

VegFund is glad to be able to support the Texas VegFest and many other national and international vegan festivals that take place throughout the year. If you’re planning a VegFest, or considering starting one in your community, check out VegFund’s Merit Award program for resources and support.