A Day at the Seed: A Vegan Experience


It’s always the same with me and conferences: I wake up the day before the event, tired and not totally in the mood to travel. I get myself on the bus, or train, or plane. And as soon as I arrive, I’m reminded of why I love events–especially vegan events–so much.

On Saturday, my first reminder came in the form of JL, decked out in her characteristic kale t-shirt. As usual, a lot of hugging and professions of love followed.
JL and I were meeting at The Seed, an event dedicated to sharing awareness about veganism and to celebrating the ever-growing vegan community. We were scheduled to present a panel together at 10:15 am, about blogging-as-vegan-activism, but because the line of folks waiting to get into the event was wrapping around the block, and people were filing in slowly, our chat got pushed back to 10:45 or so. This was a good thing for a few reasons:

a) It gave me time to caffeinate
b) It gave me time to say hi toJasmin and Mariann
c) It gave JL and I time to goof off–not that we wouldn’t do a lot more of that as the day progressed

Our co-panelist was Yoli Ouiya, who writes about green living on her blog Yoli’s Green Living. It was nice to connect with Yoli and learn about her business.

JL was our moderator, which means that the presentation was incredibly well organized. If I’d been moderating, all bets would have been off, because I seem to be as structurally incapable of preparing for speaking engagements as I am solving physics problems. I almost always just wing it (it doesn’t help that my last two presentations have entailed pulling into NYC in the wee hours the night before, and not sleeping much), and I usually just cross my fingers and hope that spontaneity will make me relaxed and engaging, rather than…well, underprepared and speechless.

In the case of the blogging panel, anyway, JL had us covered. The blog was a total blast (as you can see from the photo below). We went over a lot of helpful advice for new/aspiring bloggers, and I’d actually like to dedicate a short post to the content later this week, because I know that a lot of my readers are new bloggers, or aspiring bloggers. Right? Right.

For now, I’ll just say that I learned a lot, and I had a lot of fun on the panel!



It was so fun to share our passion for blogging with the crowd:


The panel ended, and JL and I had some time to chat with some of the folks who’d been watching. I was excited to meet Piper Hoffman, whose work I admire. After that, I got some time to peruse the amazing, incredible food vendors! My first stop was Pure Food and Wine: how could it not be? I nibbled on a macaroon and some grawnola that JL’s husband offered me, and was on my way.



Foodie stops at The Seed included a Vitamix stand, a huge array of raw chocolatiers, a station that was churning out something that looked like a fried vegan drumstick, some sandwich makers, Terri organic in NYC, which was promoting its pressed juice line, two food trucks, including a vegan mac n’ cheese food truck that had driven to NYC from Miami for the event (!), and a couple of cool snack bars, my favorite of which was made by a company called Core Foods. I tested one of the raw flavors and got another to go; I can’t wait to try it and review it here on the blog! This is Matt, the hardworking intern who made sure to get me a sample. Thanks, Matt!


I also stopped by the Herbivore booth to say hello to the wonderful Michelle Schweggman. Michelle, who is the co-owner of the world’s best purveyors of vegan t-shirts–not to mention eco-friendly accessories, vegan wallets, belts, scarves, socks, purses, and jewelry–is absolutely charming, energetic, and inspiring. I love what Herbivore stands for, and it’s always a joy to see Michelle’s smiling face at vegan events. This time, we actually got a chance to chat, which was a nice contrast to the usual rushed hello at conferences!


I also said hi to Marissa Miller Wolfson, who’s the creator of the documentary Vegucated, which follows the lives of three New Yorkers as they welcome plant-based eating—and all of the many benefits that come with it—into their lives. It’s an inspiring move, and Marissa is an inspiring woman!


Truth be told, I was kind of tired after the morning presentation, so I didn’t managed to stay in the audience for all of the main stage and stage B events. I did, though, manage to check in on a few of my speakers. First, Jasmin and Mariann, who were presenting “Think Vegan: Ten Tips to Get You Started.” I’ve seen Jasmin speak before, and she’s always great, but it was a treat to watch her dynamic with Mariann on stage! They were hilarious, warm, and engaging, and I’m sure that the audience felt moved to open their hearts (or open their hearts even more) to veganism after watching.


I couldn’t possibly miss Colleen Patrick-Goudreau speak a little while later. Colleen is an exceptionally powerful public speaker; she possesses a rare combination of force and gentleness when she talks. She’s also funny, charismatic, and absolutely steadfast and focused in her presentation of the value and importance of vegan living. Her speech this time was “From Excusitarian to Vegan: Addressing the Blocks and Excuses that Keep Us From Making Changes.” Colleen has recently coined the term (or at least, I think she coined the term) “excusitarian,” and this speech was devoted to helping people stop coming up with reasons why they can’t be vegan, and inspire them to just take the plunge. It’s hard to do justice to Colleen’s delivery here on my blog, so I’ll just advise you to listen to a few of her podcasts and see what it’s all about. I guarantee that, if you’re seeking motivation to explore this lifestyle, her work will compel you further.


Between all this, I took breaks int the “VIP lounge” with JL. It’s a rule of thumb that when JL and I hang, hilarity ensues. Yesterday was no exception.


It’s also a rule of thumb that when you put the two of us together, silly hats tend to happen. We even got Rich Roll to try one on with us:


Don’t ask.

One of the fellow bloggers whom I was most excited to see on Saturday was my friend Hannah, author of multiple vegan dessert books and the blog Bittersweet. How Hannah balances her career as an already prolific author with school is beyond me! Hannah gave a presentation on vegan ice cream making without an ice cream maker. It was super informative and fun, and I actually picked up a copy of Hannah’s new book, Vegan a la Mode, which means that I may just get to share a bunch of her recipes with you this summer!


After that, I hobbled home with a case of sore feet (too many hours of standing in my not-so-comfy flats!) and a warm heart. I love any chance to be a part of vegan celebrations, and this was no exception. Thanks to Erin Red, Jasmin and Mariann, JL, and others who partook in organizing and executing The Seed. It was an honor to be present, and I hope you’ll have me back, because I know that this “seed” is sure to multiply and grow in years to come.

Sorry. I had to make at least one slightly cheesy allusion to seeds being planted and growing in this post.

Till tomorrow!


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  1. Oh Gena, we are so behind…what an amazing event! would love to hear you speak!! even though we are not vegan, you are one person that always keeps us on track!!

  2. I’ve been saving this post to read during a moment when I’m not overwhelmed with work-stress and anxiety, and it was worth it. I dream of one day attending an event such as this, filled with inspiring thoughts, people, courage, and hats. I want those hats almost as much as I wish I’d heard you speak.

  3. Hello!! I too am a DC vegan who schlepped up to the Seed Experience! I loved your talk on blogging and recently added you on my Google reader and linked to your blog from mine! Keep up the amazing work!! Cheers!

  4. I’m so happy we could talk face-to-face, even for such a short time! Meeting you was truly one of the highlights of the event for me, and I’m glad I was able to catch at least a snippet of your talk on raw foodism. Serious wise words, my dear, that I wish more people could hear as well. You owned that stage! 😉

    I’m beyond thrilled that you took one of my cookbooks home with you, too. Your support means so much to me. <3

  5. I respect that your personal preference is to eating a semi raw diet, Gena,and that your personal experience was that it helped to arrest your IBS symptoms – yet I have to wonder if your symptoms were during a time of restriction, and whether a more balanced calorie appropriate diet would have resolved many of your digestive issues.

    In any event, my point is not to argue with your personal testimony, but to suggest that you more clearly deliniate for your readers scientific fact vs. anecdote re. purported superiority of eating a high raw diet.

    I know your knowledge has grown nutritionally speaking, and I greatly admire that you have been open minded enough to change your views on certain positions, such as food combining, etc. and to loudly acknowledge your earlier erroneous conclusions.

    But – and this is more of a personal concern for you and the very special community on CR – I can’t help but wish that you would come to similar insights re. the practice of eating semi raw – or at least the compulsion to carve out this “holier than thou” niche for yourself. This categorization seems obsessive, as do many of your extremely time consuming food preparation rituals. I greatly enjoy cooking and the special satisfaction of eating my lovingly prepared meals, but also secretly squirm at the attention you devote to your food choices, elaborate food prep. and dissection of such, and the constant emphasis and comments from readers compelled to state their “raw status” (” I eat 85% raw”) which treads in dangerous territory, and not the best example of role modeling, given many of your readers’ histories.

    • I think I have made clear in passing that my preference for raw foods is a preference, and not a public avowal of their superior health properties, and I don’t think I’ve carved out a “holier than thou” niche for myself (though this is naturally in the eye of the beholder, and that’s how you perceive it, which I’m sorry to hear). When I started my blog, I did present them as a conscious health choice, but in the time since I’ve very candidly and openly talked about my problems with enzyme theory, stated that raw or cooked ingredients can work equally well in many of my recipes, and assured readers that the raw/cooked distinction isn’t a distinction between healthy and not. Aside from that, I’ve always eaten quite a bit of cooked food. Even in the early days, grains, legumes, and root vegetables were a big part of the way I ate, and I didn’t feel that they were “inferior” for not being raw.

      Raw foods happen to work for my body, and I often prefer the taste and texture to that of many other sorts of cooked foods; I also think that a mixture of raw and cooked is smart, given that some phytonutrients can be damaged by cooking (just as some can be released). Most people do eat a mixture already; my mixture just veers more in the raw direction than others. It may not be what works for everyone, but constitutions vary; you yourself once said that recipes like the one I’d just posted put you to sleep, because they’re so high in fat (a thought that actually hadn’t crossed my mind until you mentioned it).

      It’s interesting to learn that you find my techniques to be overly laborious. I do on occasion post something really complex (like my raw pizza from some months ago, which was an experiment more than anything else). For the most part, though, my raw preparation techniques are as laborious as making almond milk or a juice. In those cases, I enjoy the “DIY” process, which I don’t think is the same as obsessiveness of an ED sort. The word “ritual” definitely suggests something disordered, and I don’t feel that making a batch of raw granola, for instance, (which I think is crispier and tastier than most of the cooked ones I’ve made) is reminiscent of the kind of ritualistic behavior that used to loom large in my life. At their most simple, my raw foods are salads, slaws, zucchini noodles, and smoothies, which I find to be a lot faster and easier than my cooked recipes often are. Using a food processor or a spiralizer feels simpler to me than turning on my oven or stovetop! And, as a (non-raw, non-vegan) friend of mine said today, in telling me about the new dehydrator she’d gotten just for fun, it’s often easier to mix something up and leave it in the dehydrator than it is to bake.

      Anyway, I do appreciate that your comment comes from a place of concern, and to your original point, I think my post about the VegNews article (which will happen when the new issue actually arrives) will be a great opportunity to reiterate in a succinct and focused way the fact that raw foods remain important and dear to me out of personal preference and because they occupy a special place in my life; they taught me a lot about cooking, interestingly enough, and a lot about a whole foods lifestyle (I was eating a conventional vegan diet for some time before raw food entered the pictured, and a nutritionally/calorically adequate one, to get back to your suggestion that they helped me only because I was still calorie/food deficient). I love sharing raw food because I find a lot of it delightful, and I think my readers love hearing about it. I do make a constant effort to distinguish my approach to making raw food from the approaches that dictate that all raw food is superior to cooked, and that raw and cooked recipes/techniques can’t play together.

  6. so awesome! Wish I was there!! Wish they did live web stream of presentations. Maybe next year they will. ps love your dress Gena – super cute. Amazing event – I def will not miss next year! yay vegans!

  7. I discovered Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s work through your blog Gena – Thank you!
    Her Vegetarian Food for thought podcast is amazing (it’s actually about veganism despite the name).
    For those that that are interested, there is a video up on you tube of Colleen’s “From Excuse-itarian to Vegan” talk : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWD1Zze5Qo4

  8. What a great recap! I especially like that you questioned Dr. Fuhrman’s stance on disease-proofing through a plant-based diet. Though plant-based eating is really such a powerful tool in preventing and treating lots of different kinds of diseases, it’s not a cure-all and the world we live in is filled with so many stressful outside forces (UV rays, pollution etc.) that it’s impossible to completely shield your body. That said, there’s so much science to suggest a vegan diet certainly goes a long way towards protection!

  9. I totally agree with your thoughts on “diseaseproof” language…mostly due to my work in oncology as well. I do believe a whole foods, plant-based diet gives us our BEST shot at living a long and healthy life but at the end of the day also think there are so many other factors which play a role. Glad I’m not the only one who views it this way!

  10. Looks like such a great day–and I only wish I could have been there to hear your presentation and say hi to you and JL! 🙂 Glad the talks went well. (And such cute hats!) 😉

  11. I know this is totally irrelevant, but I love your dress! Is it from Ebay 😉

    The conference sounds lovely. Glad you could break away from DC and physics to be a part of it.

  12. this sounds like such a cool thing to be a part of. i always find that true with public speaking- that you’re anxiety ridden for a hot second, and then as things start to flow you find that groove, make a few jokes, and begin to feel connected and comfortable with the audience.

    glad it went well!

  13. Gena, I’m so happy to hear you had a wonderful time, though I doubt it could be anything but. I wish I could have been there to hear you speak – I was actually set to table at the festival but a couple things came up. It would have been an honor to meet you.

  14. Great recap, Gena. I could not have summed it up better myself. My only regret? Not snagging a photo with you! Next time 🙂

    Either way, as a long time CR reader, getting to hear your talk was really awesome. Aside from the topic, I loved that you are the same way you are in person as you are on the web – articulate, intelligent, well-spoken, passionate and humble. You have a balanced, genuine and authentic voice that is valued tremendously in the vegan-world and I am grateful to have gotten to hear it.

  15. When The Seed was on I couldn’t stop thinking all day how much I wished I was there! So thank you for giving us insight to what it was like.
    You and JL looked great, more so in the hats 😉
    I’m glad you had a great time there and hopefully it helped motivate people to have a more plant based diet.
    Lisa x

  16. It’s funny how you mention you’re so impressed that your friend Hannah balances her writing career with school. Ummm…I can think of someone else who does the same thing!

    And–I’m always glad when JL pops up in your posts! I discovered Stop Chasing Skinny through CR and I love her message & her writing.

  17. Saturday falls into one of the Best. Days. Ever. I loved our panel. I loved our kitty cat hat silliness. I loved beyond surrounded by vegan warriors. And, as you know, I love you. And Dave is totally cool with you being my second spouse! 🙂 You rocked your session hard. You break things down so well and you make a healthy vegan lifestyle feel attainable!

  18. Gena!!! could you drop more hints about where we might be able to read more about the seed and the presentations from this past weekend (blogs, sites, etc.) I live in MN and considered traveling to see it when I saw the first post about the event, exciting stuff!!! ~Also, what do you mean by ‘dogmas’ when you talk about them? I think I get you and have the same concerns for myself but, could you clarify… Thank you!

    • JL (www.jlgoesvegan.com) will surely mention it, as will the women of Our Hen House (www.ourhenhouse.com). Hannah Kaminsky may write about it (www.bittersweetblog.wordpress.com). And you’ll definitely find in depth photos and summaries on The Seed’s own website!!

      As for dogmas:

      I know it’s a hazy word, and I don’t mean to misapply it, but I really just mean some of the “rules” I was inundated with in my early days — rules that didn’t, I came to think, have much logic. These include “you should never eat dessert during daylight,” “you should only eat food during daylight hours,” “eat light food before heavy food,” “eat raw food before cooked food,” “cooked food is dead food,” “cooked food is toxic,” “avoid mucuous forming foods,” and many more. It also includes some of the rigid rules that spring up around practices like food combining and acid/alkaline eating. If some of these theories resonate with folks, that’s just great, but they’re presented in remarkably black and white terms given the scant amount of scientific evidence to support them. So to me, they feel irrational, and they’re often presented with a certain amount of zealotry.

      It’s worth saying that the raw community has changed SO much! It was far more rigid when I started my raw journey; nowadays, the statements above are uttered fewer and farther between. Which is great. And again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to find personal truth/success in some of the advice, but to present these ideas as if they’re scientific truths that we should obey at all costs does not strike me as the right way to bring anyone in to the raw foods lifestyle.

      That was the jist, anyway 🙂

      Hope this makes sense.


      • With this dogma and your personal evolution in mind, I would love to hear your current thoughts on why raw food or a “semi raw” diet continues to appeal to you. I still am hard pressed to find any evidence that eating uncooked food offers any health benefits – nutritionally speaking – than moderately cooked plant based fare. And, I am still bewildered re. your experience that raw food is more digestible – personally, and in the experience of many within my own personal circle, I find the opposite to be the case with the vast majority of food. It seems to me that it’s just another eating identity label that (wrongly) confers some form of superior, cleaner than thou eating – when there just is no scientific truth to back up this perception. I still fail to understand this common aspiration among your readers, and could never justify the extraordinarily time consuming food preparations involved with raw eating based purely on hype.


        • Interesting comment and question. I’ll have a good opportunity to respond soon (in reference to a recent VegNews article I wrote).

          • I just wanted to add that I too know many people who find raw vegetables extremely hard on their stomachs, making lightly cooked vegetables much more digestible and accessible. Some of them had a history of ulcers though, and I am not sure how this contributes. So I too would be interested in an answer to this question!

            • There’s quite some variety of opinion on this topic! It’s true that raw food is not recommended to those with UC or Crohn’s, and yes, a lot of folks find raw vegetables tougher on digestion. I personally credit eating more raw food (along with stress management and other practices) with the end of my gruesome IBS-C, which caused me constant discomfort. To this day, raw salad and a lot of raw side dishes are crucial to my staying regular, and they tend to go digest a bit easier than cooked food. (Of course, as you both know from reading CR, I also eat a ton of grains and legumes, and I do find both of those foods to be helpful for digestion, too.) So, while many find steamed or cooked veggies to be far more digestible, my experience, while not quite the opposite, is different, as are those of most of the other raw food devotees I know. With digestive health and IBS, it’s so hard to know; many of the diets recommended for IBS healing (SCD, for instance) work wonders for some, but did very little for me.

              Most of my passion for raw foods comes from a place of personal taste, sensation, and preference — but more on that in the post to come!

            • I have UC and totally agree with this!!! I did a 90 percent raw diet for about 6 months and all it did was exacerbate my symptoms and leave me feeling worse than I did before, unless what I ate that day was mostly bananas, smoothies, juices, and skinned fruit. I go sparingly on the raw veggies now. Just thought I’d throw that out there because I got all excited!!! WHOOOO veganism!! 🙂

              I also want to mention that for someone with UC who is currently in a flare-up, may I cordially say–flaxseed is the DEVIL!!

              I still eat raw foods though–can’t help it, too many temptations 🙂 I usually make pates and things though to make it easier on my system, but I love me my raw cauliflower. Kale salad can be a bit hard to take, but I’m not in a flareup right now so give it to me!!

  19. The conference sounds like it had some really engaging presentations. I bet I would have learned a lot.

    You are absolutely glowing in these photos, Gena! And may I say how much I love your outfit? It’s super cute! 🙂

  20. Thanks for the recap, Gena. I so badly wanted to attend, but it just wasn’t in the cards to travel from Massachusetts this weekend. Soon, though, I’ll be in NYC and in close proximity to all these fantastic events and people! I so wanted to see you, JL, and CPG, but surely I will have other opportunities. I’m glad you had a positive experience!

  21. I have one of those One Lucky Duck tshirts..that I bought…because of you! like 3 years ago! Need to dig it out.

    What a fun event and would have loved to hear you on the panel and meetups and the in-person stuff is great. Glad you were able to connect with everyone IRL!

  22. that looks like a wonderful event! great that you got the chance to share your experience and give people advice. I am sure you were very inspirational. Still waiting for an event like that happen in europe ! and i will be sure to send you a special invite to it 🙂

  23. You rock, gena! Wish I was there to see you! We went Sunday and saw the raising vegan kids panel and ate lots of chocolate samples! 😉 hopefully I will see you there next year!!

  24. Thanks for sharing this! It’s so nice to get a glimpse into “The Seed” for those of us who couldn’t be there!