The Bearded Vegans Podcast: Combining Food and Social Justice w/ Sarah Woodcock
Posted April 11, 2018
Paul: What’s up, Beardos? You’re listening to episode 127 of The Bearded Vegans.
Paul: Welcome to the show! I’m Paul.
Andy: And I’m Andy.
Paul: And we are The Bearded Vegans, a podcast featuring a dissection of all things vegan.
Andy: If you’re just tuning in for the first time you can find all of our previous episodes at thebeardedvegans.com. You can always reach us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul: In today’s episode we’re going to talk about what we’ve been eating, do some follow up, discuss the news, and then move on to an interview with Sarah Woodcock, one of the founders of Trio Plant-based.
Andy: Paul, this is a great interview. I know we don’t normally have restaurant people or cookbook people, food people on the show, but trust that this is such a unique restaurant experience that I think it’s really important for our listeners to hear about it. Really looking forward to sharing everything that Sarah’s doing with our listeners.
Paul: I trust you, Andy.
Andy: [laugh] Thank you, Paul. I appreciate that. I’m glad I’ve earned your trust after 127 episodes.
Paul: [laugh] Yep.
Andy: But before we get into what we’ve been eating, just a quick announcement – our standard mailbag announcement. That means in three short episodes, we’ll be doing the ol’ mailbag, which means we want your, all of you beautiful Beardos, your listener questions, comments, concerns, about anything we’ve covered, anything you want us to cover, nothing is too big, too small, too medium, or too mundane. We love hearing from everybody. And of course a mailbag episode means we will have three new winners for our review contest, so if you want to win a Bearded Vegans button and sticker, all you have to do is head over to iTunes and give us a rating and a review. You must give a review or we will have no idea who it is that left us that wonderful rating. We choose three people at random with a random number generator every [mailbag] episode and then we mail them a button and sticker for free. So head over there and get on it!
Paul: Yes! So, Andy, what have you been eating?
Andy: Before we talk about food I want to say that I did the Indie Veg Fest – ahem, the Andy Veg Fest, in Andyanapolis. I want to give a quick shout out to some of the Beardos that were there, so thank you very much to Jeremy, and Darcy, and some child came by and said, “My aunt is a Beardo”, so I gave that child a sticker and hopefully the aunt has received it.
Paul: That’s the super secret keyword, to say that.
Andy: You know, Paul, I’ve bene thinking I need something to say back to people. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like everyone’s like, “What’s up, Beardo?” and I’m like, “Uh, eh, hey! What’s going on!”, you know? It needs to be something, like a secret handshake, a verbal secret handshake.
Paul: I’m into that.
Andy: So if anyone has any suggestions out there, or maybe it’s just people saying, “Hey Andy!” and I go, “Yes, Paul?”
Andy: Anyway, thank you to Stacy. Now, Stacy brought me a banh mi, so I’m glad that that’s becoming my thing. This is a banh mi that I got earlier in the day, and it was so good but it was kind of tiny and I was like, “Oh, I would love to eat another of these at some point in my life, but I know they’ll be sold out by the time I can leave my table again.” So thank you to Stacy for that. Also met Amy, who I didn’t catch Amy’s friend/partner/VegFest exploration buddy’s name, but they brought me some biscuits and gravy that were delicious.
Andy: I feel like I’m not great at expressing gratitude, I feel like I’m just an awkward human being, I also feel like I’m not worthy, but thank you very much. It’s amazing when people bring by little treats for me and Paul occasionally at the table.
Paul: I was going to say, we’re recording this now, before I went to the Veggie Pride Parade in New York City, even though you’re listening to this after that happened, but I can only assume that someone came up to me and gave me some raw blocks of tofu at the Veggie Pride Parade.
Andy: [laugh] I hope that that happens. It’s going to be the new thing. Next time we do a live taping, I want people to just be throwing raw tofu at Paul.
Andy: And banh mis at me.
Andy: Also I wanted to say I met Paras at the Vegan Street Fair in LA. I forgot to mention. So thank you to everyone that stopped by. Alright, food. So during my travels from the Indy Veg Fest to the Nashville VegFest, which is where I’ll be this coming weekend, but pay no heed to that because by the time you hear this it will have happened already, but during those travels I did get to stop in Louisville, Kentucky, and I went to Morel’s Café, that’s M-O-R-E-L-apostrophe-S, like the mushroom. I gotta say, this is a really cool little vegan diner/deli kind of place. I got the Farby’s Meal, which is a vegan recreation of an Arby’s Meal.
Andy: The lighting was nice, so there’s a great picture of this on our Instagram. It was this shaved seitan and a cheese sauce on a bun. It all looks exactly like what you’d get at Arby’s, but obviously tasted way better. I got it with curly fries, and they came with a sweet horseradish dipping sauce. The whole thing was really good. I have to say the cheese sauce on the actual sandwich didn’t have much of a taste, but visually made it look like the whole thing. But overall, everything came together so well, the flavors were great. I really liked this place. The thing that made me truly love it over the top, was that I found out that it seems to be the official outlet for Louisville vegan jerky. They put out these limited edition flavors that I never get my hands on for the most part. They have a “Jerky of the month” club. I just love this jerky so much, but I never have an address to ship it to. I actually messaged them on Instagram. I was like, “Hey, I’m coming through. Is there a place I can buy in town?” and I received no response. So I was really happy to show up and they had all of these special flavors. They had a bold teriyaki, a cowboy steak, and they had the flavor of the month. And Paul, they also had, you know those grabber claw machines?
Andy: They had a machine that was just a grabber claw machine filled with vegan jerky.
Paul: I love it. Sounds like my kind of machine.
Andy: In the bags, not just – [laugh]
Paul: [laugh] Not just loose jerky?
Andy: They also had a lot of other fun vegan goodies from other companies like Violife. Really cool spot. I hope to go back because the other thing that was on the menu that I didn’t get was their banh mi hot dogs.
Andy: So that’s Morel’s Café in Louisville, Kentucky. I gotta get back to that town. I like the vibe. Unfortunately I had to leave right quick and head to Nashville, but I hope to return.
Paul: You know, Andy, I have an address that you can send them to, all the jerky.
Andy: [laugh] I don’t trust that they will make it to me if they get to you first.
Paul: That is, uh, yeah. You’re right to have that distrust.
Andy: Alright, Paul, what went in that beautiful mouth of yours this week?
Paul: Just some tofu, and I had a Tofurkey sausage that I put in the microwave for about a minute and a half. And then ate it. That’s my daily intake.
Paul: So, Andy, we’ve got a little bit of follow up from last week’s discussion. Let’s hear about that.
Andy: Yeah. As most people know, we record most of our episodes a week in advance. So the side effect of that means often we are not timely on news, but every now and then there is a coincidence in the releasing of our episodes. This happened with our most recent episode. We did a news roundup, but one of the stories we covered extensively was this vegan author that wrote this long post and essentially was saying that if the world went vegan there would be no more mass shootings. And we refuted that claim. We said there are lots of vegans who do horrible things, and obviously we think going vegan is an amazing thing to do for a number of reasons, but to think that we can just focus on getting people to go vegan, and everything else will follow is a fallacious claim. Unfortunately, the day before the episode was released, a story broke. Something happened that really, spectacularly so, disproved that author’s claim. It’s hard to be happy about it because it’s a very tragic thing, and that is that there was a shooting at the YouTube headquarters. This person, at the time of recording, shot and injured three people, and then killed themself. We’re hoping the three people who were shot pull through. The thing that makes this interesting and different from the standard mass shooting case was that this shooter is someone who identifies as a vegan, and had a YouTube channel that promoted veganism and animal rights, and the mainstream media dug up a picture of this person from 2009 at a PETA protest. So here we have someone, Paul, that very much identifies as vegan, seems like it’s not just someone that’s casually eating plant based food, like they’re out there campaigning for the rights of animals. And they go and engage in the shooting. Of course that seems to very much be counter to the point that that author was making.
Paul: Yeah, I think it’s obviously a terrible and sad story. But hopefully it means that people will maybe be more hesitant to push this agenda that’s like, oh, veganism is the only thing that we need to do, it’s the only thing we need to work for, and it’ll solve racism, it’ll solve sexism, it’ll solve all the other tragedies in the world if we just go vegan. I think a lot of times, or sometimes, people kind of use that as a way to say, “Oh, I don’t need to work on these other areas, I don’t need to improve myself in these areas because I’m already vegan.” That’s one of the biggest dangers of that mentality of, “All I need to do is be vegan.” It kind of ignores all these other issues.
Andy: Definitely. Now, of course the response to this bit of information about the shooter has been received and used differently by different outlets. You have people who are saying, “look at the horrible terrorist vegan agenda” from the conservative wing, I guess I’ll say. And then of course you have the vegans that are quick to jump on this story and say, “This shooter must not have really been vegan, they must have been just a plant based eater, because if they were truly vegan they would never engage in this type of violence.” Again, we know this is someone who was visibly vegan, and very visibly spoke out for animal liberation. I don’t know, Paul, what do you think about the people who are trying to separate themselves from the shooter and say, “They weren’t truly vegan.” I imagine that’s probably what this author would say, “This person hadn’t truly embraced a vegan ethic yet, and that’s why they engaged in this shooting.”
Paul: I get it, like I get that reaction because I think when something like this happens to someone, either that’s close to you, or someone who identifies as something similar to you, that you think of as a very positive thing, and now the media’s latching onto it, and being like, “Oh, this one aspect of this person’s identity has in some way to do with the terrible thing they did”. I get the reaction of trying to distance yourself from that person and trying to look for these loopholes, or look for these outs to be like, “Oh, no, wait, that person actually wasn’t the same as the thing that I am”. So, I get the reaction. I think it’s a normal reaction to have. But I think you need to go a little deeper and be able to question yourself, question your identities, question the community that you’re working for, in this case veganism. You have to be like, “Okay, maybe this isn’t this perfect that I thought it was. Maybe it’s not this infallible movement. And maybe we do have issues that we need to address.” While I do empathize slightly with the reaction people are having, I think they need to maybe do a little more self reflection, and be like, “I can’t just have this one view and then when something comes up to counter that view I can’t just say, ‘Well that example doesn’t actually apply, so my view still holds’.” Know what I mean?
Andy: Yeah, definitely. This is a part of the vegan zeitgeist at the moment. If you do what we do, in preparation for episodes I’ll often just go to google and do a news search of veganism or animal rights and doing those things the other day to prepare for this episode, doing so, googling those things under a new setting only brought up this shooting, this shooter in specific. It’s here, it’s a part of it, we’ve gotta own the fact that being vegan doesn’t mean perfection in all areas of our lives.
Paul: Yeah, I think it does a disservice to the movement for people that aren’t vegan if vegans are just saying, almost coming up with excuses if something like this happens. Just saying, “That’s not real veganism, she wasn’t really vegan.” I don’t know if the word ‘cheapens’ is the right word to use, but from an outsider’s perspective, someone might look at that and say, “You don’t really have this thing down completely. You’re just coming up with excuses for it.” Maybe that makes it less attractive to people that are on the outside of it, who knows.
Andy: Yeah. I don’t know. Would love to hear what our listeners think about this. Feel free to send us an email, email@example.com. So, let’s move on into the news. Paul.
Paul: Yes, Andy?
Andy: You know I love a good movie. You know I love a good movie review. Seems like we might have some more in our future.
Paul: [laugh] Yeah, we’ve possibly got a lot of them coming. I found a few different film related news stories. The first one is, I think this is kind of cool. There’s going to be the first international vegan film festival in Canada. It’s going to be in Ottawa in October. It seems like it was started where the event organizer was inspired by the reception to Forks Over Knives and wanted to give a platform for a lot of these different types of films. I’m interested to see what types of films they choose to show, because I would hope it’s not just going to be, y’know, Forks Over Knives, and What the Health, and I’m trying to think of all the other movies that we’ve reviewed that are very similar to each other, because I feel like that would not be the most exciting film festival if they’re like, “See T. Colin Campbell saying the same thing ten times in a row!”
Andy: [laugh] Yeah, honestly I’m picturing people sitting throughout this festival and seeing ten hours’ worth of film, and being like, “So was that all the same movie?”
Paul: [laugh] Yeah.
Andy: I guess I’m hoping that, because it’s inspired by Forks Over Knives, obviously that one’s been around for quite some time. So I’m hoping that it won’t just be films of that ilk, and it won’t just be films that are already out. I’m sure there’s a place for them at a festival like this, but hopefully it can be a platform to elevate a lot of vegan films that maybe don’t have huge distribution as far as a vegan film goes. You know, we’re seeing the Eating You Alive movie just happened in 500 theaters nationwide. Hopefully it can be a chance to elevate some films that don’t get a lot of platform. Or maybe even ones that tackle some lesser known issues within the vegan movement, like that could be really cool, if they’re talking about things other than “go vegan and lose a lot of weight and never die”.
Paul: And if you have a vegan film out there, the entry deadline is not till July 31, so you’ve got a little bit of time to finish up editing that film and submit it!
Andy: Yeah. I think it’s cool. I’m glad to see vegan film festivals. I wonder if it’s just going to be films that talk about veganism or some sort of animal rights thing. I wonder if maybe there’s a category for films made by vegans that aren’t necessarily message-heavy. Or, maybe there’s going to be a lot of narrative films, not just documentaries. I’m curious to see what the programming schedule’s going to look like for this festival.
Paul: Yeah, like I wonder if something like Okja would apply, where it’s not explicitly said that it’s a vegan movie, but it does have an animal-heavy messaging to it.
Andy: And it also has a very heavy animal.
Andy: Thank you. I’d say I’d wait in the car, but I’m already here.
Paul: [laugh] I had found this other new documentary that’s coming out that I also thought was interesting because on the surface, when I first read about this, I said, oh, this is just another Rotten, which if you’ve heard our Patreon reviews of Rotten, you may know, spoiler alert, that we were not huge fans of them. We were a little let down about what it ended up being. We thought it was going to be more animal centric. So anyways, this new documentary, to me it seemed like that’s what it’s going to be, but then I did a little more delving into it, and I’m a little more hopeful about it, Andy. I actually found this bit of information on Vogue.com, which seems like a different place to get our vegan news, but hey, whatever. The article talks about the investigative journalist Nelufar Hedayat, who also created the documentary “The Traffickers”, about how she was creating a new docu series that’s called, “Food Exposed with Nelufar Hedayat”. It’s going to be an eight-part documentary. The thing that stuck out to me was that she met with an undercover investigator from Compassion Over Killing who was showing her about the dairy farms. So apparently there’s a whole episode that focuses on dairy farms. And already, that seems to me like it’s more animal centric than Rotten, probably will be even in the episodes we didn’t watch. It’s nice to see that she seems to be doing it from a slightly more animal perspective. Now some of the other topics they’re going to be talking about will be water pollution and GMOs and palm oil production. We’ll deal with the palm oil production, that might touch on the animal issues, but with GMOs and pollution, maybe that will talk about how that impacts the animals, maybe it’ll just be from a human and environment standpoint. But, I remain hopeful that this will be a little bit more of what we wanted to see from Rotten. It does help that Hedayat is also vegan. Interestingly, the article says, “Hedayat, a vegan who had not tried a glass of milk in over four years until filming this episode”. So I don’t know why… I don’t know. I’m going to withhold my judgment about why filming this episode about milk required her to drink milk. I guess we can withhold judgment until we check it out, if we do choose to check it out. I think it’s going to be pretty good. I’m hopeful about it, Andy.
Andy: Let’s be real, we’re definitely going to check it out, Paul. [laugh]
Andy: The thing definitely gives me Rotten vibes just because of that one little section that talks about dairy farmers. It says it’s talking about dairy farmers that are facing jail time for producing and distributing raw unpasteurized milk. Which, we did not watch the dairy episode of Rotten yet, and maybe never will, but I do know that it focuses on the sales of raw milk. I’ll be curious to see, with a skeptical eye, how this documentary stacks up.
Paul: The fact that she’s vegan, and the fact that she’s working with an animal rights organization does give me hope.
Andy: Yeah. Also in film news, I wanted to say we talked about the Natalie Portman-led adaptation of Eating Animals. We found out that that’s set for release June 15.
Paul: That’s not that far from now.
Andy: No, it’s not. We’ve got a lot of movie reviews in our future.
Paul: Is that getting a wide release?
Andy: Y’know, I have to hope that it is, but I guess we’ll see. Natalie Portman is a big name, and Jonathan Safran Foer, very popular author. I guess we’ll see.
Paul: It’s not like Earthlings got a wide release, even though Joaquin Phoenix was the narrator.
Andy: Yeah, but I feel like that was a different time, Paul. I think with seeing films like What the Health, or I think even the first time Eating You Alive came out, I saw that in a theater in New York City. Blackfish got not a super wide release but a wider release. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Paul: Still haven’t seen Blackfish, Andy.
Andy: That’s alright.
Paul: Is that all we’ve got to say about films for now?
Andy: That’s it. Paul?
Paul: Yes, Andy?
Andy: I like films.
Andy: Hot take.
Paul: Hot take. Let’s move on into our final piece of news. We’re going to have a lot to discuss about this. This is coming to us from livekindly.co: “Vegan nonprofit fights to stop prison-run slaughterhouses”.
“Vegan non-profit Evolve Our Prison Farms (EOPF) is working to implement change after a recent government ruling allowed the return of prison farms in Canada. These farms previously saw prisoners raising livestock for slaughter and even now, sees inmates working in onsite abattoirs.
Canada’s new federal budget allocated $4.3 million toward the reintroduction of prison farms in Kingston, Ontario. Previous meat and dairy operations saw prisoners forcibly impregnating cows, separating calves from their mothers, and sending cows and calves off to slaughter. Further, some prisoners were trained at onsite slaughterhouses, one of which is still in operation.
The new model will see similar operations, however, this time involving goat dairy. …
While advocates for the prison farms argue that this work helps inmates gain “valuable life skills”, EOPF believes these programs worsen the well-being of inmates and increases the risk of violent behavior.”
Paul: The article goes on and says basically that the EOPF, or Evolve Our Prison Farms, what they want is instead of having these inmates work at slaughterhouses, they want them to help grow fruit and vegetables. So they don’t oppose the idea of working on farms, just not with all the violence. The Founder of the EOPF, Calvin Neufeld, had this to say: “Teaching prisoners to exploit and slaughter animals is neither therapeutic nor rehabilitative. A plant-based model is said to teach responsibility and empathy without the exploitation of animals.” So, I think what they’re doing sucks, I think what EOPF is trying to do, it could be beneficial. It’s certainly a better alternative, but what do you think, Andy?
Andy: Paul, I did not read this article before you brought it to me. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. My jaw kind of dropped when they said that they want to switch over to plant based agriculture. I agree with you that yes, that is obviously much better than slaughtering animals. The EOPF does make a great point that involving any human being in the slaughter of animals as we’ve seen increases rates of violence. We see increased rates of domestic abuse in communities where slaughterhouses are, etc. So I agree with that, but I just can’t believe the conclusion is to switch over to plant based agriculture, and not to end these prison labor systems. It just – I don’t know. It feels like White Veganism to me, Paul. It feels like it’s really missing the point that it’s still furthering the exploitation. I think if it was a program like “hey, we’re going to teach prisoners how to garden”, if it was something like that, a life skills course, but this is something that some industry is going to profit off of. I just can’t be down with it.
Paul: I thought that that’s what it was. I thought it was like switching over to, “Here’s the tools that you have to grow this farm stuff”.
Andy: Yeah… I don’t know. The impression that I got from what you’ve read so far is that they’re, “These companies are using prisoners, exploiting them for incredibly cheap labor, almost free labor, for animal slaughter, so what we want is to transition them over to giving that almost free labor to plant based agriculture instead.” That’s the vibe I’m getting from this article.
Paul: Hm. I see what you’re saying. So what do you think would make it an okay thing to have?
Andy: If we abolished all prisons.
Paul: [laugh] Yes, I agree, but in this specific situation, for instance, what if it was just a voluntary thing instead of mandatory?
Andy: It’s hard for me to approve of literally anything to do with the prison system, Paul.
Andy: Again, I think if it’s just a life skills course, if it was the same as some course that’s getting a GED, or some college equivalent program, or learning some trade that you’ll be able to use once you get out, I think that could be favorable. But something that provides cheap labor for a corporation, I don’t think there’s any value in that whatsoever.
Paul: I wonder if we could figure out from the EOPF website what that labor is going towards, who it’s profiting. So after a slight amount of research I found on their website some of the positions they take are, “Providing work and learning opportunities for prisoners that provide education, life skills, and job skills relevant to reintegration into a society that is increasingly concerned with issues of climate change, public health, and animal welfare, and where job opportunities continue to grow in sectors such as organic plant production, food services, and animal care.” A couple bullet points down it says, “Feeding prisoners with nutritious food grown, processed, and prepared by their fellow prisoners”, “Providing a coherent model of rehabilitation and therapeutic activity for prisoners that is centered in responsible, responsive, and nurturing relationships with humans, animals, plants, and the environment”. So, Andy, it’s a little unclear, if there are profits being made from this, who are the profits going towards, because I obviously agree with you that any form of exploiting labor like this is awful. How do you feel about if it was purely a therapeutic thing, or providing life or job skills program?
Andy: In that case, I guess it would be hard for me to argue against it if it’s totally voluntary and nobody is profiting off of it, it’s just food that the inmates who grow it get to eat. I guess I’m down with that, Paul?
Paul: I understand your concern that it’s hard to be like, “Yes, this good thing is happening inside of the prisons”. I understand your hesitance. In the current system that we have I guess I would rather see something like this than not. If it was voluntary, if they were being paid fairly or if they got to eat the food that they grew. I think that’s where we’re going to wrap up the conversation for now. I think you can probably expect some follow up on this next week, but we’ll see. For now, right before we go to our interview with Sarah Woodcock, we have some special Beardos to give shout outs to! That’s right, our Patreon donors!
Andy: Thank you to everyone that is sustaining the podcast with your monthly contribution. New to the Beardo crew we have: Annalea A. Casey B. Jewels I. Thank you very much for contributing to the Patreon, and of course if there’s someone that doesn’t want to make a recurring monthly payment, we can also take one-time donations. So thank you very much to Deb L. for taking advantage of that option via PayPal.
Paul: Thank you! Thank you very much.
Andy: And if you want to support the podcast just go to thebeardedvegans.com/beardo and you’ll have a couple different options there. If you choose to do so, you can get a shout out on the show, of course, you can get early access to episodes, there’s a couple bonus episodes already up, and there will be another new bonus episode dropping in a week or so. Head over to thebeardedvegans.com/beardo and do it up! And thank you! With that said, it’s time to move on into our interview with Sarah Woodcock. Again, this is a really cool interview. I think what Sarah and the crew over at Trio Plant-based is really unique, really important work. Excited to share their story with all of your listeners. We’ll be right back with Sarah Woodcock.
Andy: Our guest today is Sarah Woodcock, co-founder of Trio Plant-based. Sarah, thank you for taking the time to join me today.
Sarah: Thank you so much for having me on your show, Andy!
Andy: I’m so excited to finally get you on the show. I’ve bene following your work for a while. I really love the perspective that you bring to the online commentary around all things vegan. Before we get into the main reason why we brought you in today, we always like to ask our guests, how and why they went vegan. What did that transition look like for you?
Sarah: I was one of those kids where I think I just had flashes of awareness of what was going on with the animals, or what is going on with animals, but I wasn’t one of those kids where I was surrounded by animals growing up, or I didn’t identify as a child who loved animals. But I had a couple times in life where actually it was things that my parents would tell me now that I said then, like, if there was a piece of meat on my plate, I didn’t even remember this, but they tell me that I said, “I can’t eat that, that’s an animal”. One time I went to Maine and my family ordered clam chowder. When it got to the table I remember being like, “I literally cannot eat that. There are animals in my soup.” At times there was kind of an awakening there, but for the most part I was pretty asleep until my late twenties, early thirties. I didn’t have a strong consistent animal rights message, but I would sort of pick of pieces from pop culture here and there around associating something wrong with meat itself. Eventually, I dabbled with being vegetarian and trying to get away from ordering meat. I think one time I did a stint where I was vegetarian for six months. I also avoided buying leather, or I would buy secondhand leather. I wasn’t making the full connection to being vegan. What sent me over the edge was in 2012, I came across a refrigerator at a grocery store. On the door it said, “We’re no longer carrying eggs from this farm due to an undercover investigation that revealed animal cruelty.” For some reason, that day, I asked, “Eggs? What could possibly be the animal cruelty behind eggs?” I thought maybe it was a rogue, “mean” employee, but as I researched further into it, I found that there was no way to get around what we call animal cruelty in any of the animal based foods that exist. For a long time I sought out “humane” [products]. As most vegans do, you get to the end of the road and say, “wait, there really isn’t a way to do this humanely.” And you also realize as you get involved in the vegan movement that, “gosh, we don’t need to eat animal foods at all, and vegan food can be so delicious.” It all works out, and you find being vegan is actually awesome, and you don’t have to struggle so much with the idea of leaving behind those animal based foods that are associated with so much harm and sadness and pain.
Andy: Absolutely. I find that a lot of vegans, over time, their approach to veganism kind of changes. Has that happened for you? Are you the same type of vegan you were when you first started?
Sarah: Oh my gosh. [laugh] Okay, everyone can laugh right now because my journey has been very public. I think for people that I’ve been friends with for many years in the vegan movement – I’ve bene vegan now for six years this month on tax day. I went vegan because I finally put my foot on the ground and was just like, “I no longer want my life to be taxing the animals”. It was this combination with me taking a stand and also being on tax day. When you first enter, you forget how little you know, if you’ve been vegan for a while. I was soaking up so much information, because usually we become vegan because we’ve had a serious revelation in our lives, and we’re taking a moral stand so to speak. In addition to needing to soak up all this new information for yourself and how to live vegan now, you also want to get information because you’re trying to educate other people around you who have a thousand questions and a thousand misconceptions about why you’re vegan and what veganism is. So, in the beginning I really didn’t know much at all, and just dove in pretty quickly to immerse myself in information about why I’m vegan, which for me was always really clear. Then it got intermixed a lot with so many facts and statistics that are out there related to animals and the industry and becoming somewhat knowledgeable. In the beginning I really immersed myself in information and then shortly thereafter I encountered a poster online that introduced me to the idea that there’s something different between animal welfare and animal rights. I definitely came into the movement through animal welfare ideology, and then became educated about the difference, and now I’m 100% identifying with animal rights, and therefore veganism. It was a pretty rocky journey, just getting immersed in the information and finding eventually that you have to be open minded to learn what all the different thinkers in the movement have been thinking about. Now I certainly identify with animal rights and for a while identified as an abolitionist. Now I’ve dropped the abolitionist title for a million reasons. Now I just identify as vegan.
Andy: Right on. Straight down the line, nice and simple, “vegan”.
Sarah: Yep. I started out vegan, went to something else, came back to vegan.
Andy: Very cool. Thank you for sharking your journey there. Of course we’re bringing you on today because we want to talk about Trio Plant-Based, which involves you and two other people. Before we talk about this endeavor, tell us about your business partners. How did you come together to create this?
Sarah: Thank you again for having me on the show and giving me a chance to talk about Trio. So, Trio is a forthcoming 100% plant based restaurant. What makes us different is that we have a strong social justice foundation. The reason for that is because my husband, who is one of my business partners, Dan Woodcock, and our business partner Louis Hunter, we met through a situation when Louis was facing a severe racial injustice. We met him when we were at a protest in Minnesota in December of 2016. It was a protest following the murder of a black man by the police. We didn’t meet him actually at the protest, but we met him as a result of the protest.
[Sarah:] Afterwards, my husband and I went home and continued on in our lives, but for Louis – the next day he was arrested and charged with two counts of felony riot. He was accused of doing things at the protest that he actually did not do. He was looking at up to 20 years in prison for something that he did not do. He has four daughters that he is very close with. It was several months from the time of the protest until we met him. The protest was in July in 2016. It was in May of 2017 – something came through my newsfeed that there’s a house party, come out and meet this man named Louis Hunter who’s unjustly facing 20 years in prison for something he didn’t do. We put pieces together and realized, oh my gosh, he was at the protest that we were at, and yet he’s facing jail for it, and here we are not.
[Sarah:] After work we got home, it was a Wednesday, and it was a choice of being compelled with social justice issues that enter your stream of consciousness, do I go to something? Everyone would rather sit home on the couch, right? Or do I get involved and go and learn, and try to support someone else who’s facing something? We decided to go. That choice ended up changing the course of Dan’s and my life. We met him and I immediately knew he was innocent. I could tell when he told his story that this is the case of a black man who is, in many ways in our society powerless, if you have a charge brought against you, who’s going to stand up and support you and help you fight that charge? So much of how racism plays out today is an assumption of guilt, or this idea that things that happen to people of color, things that happen to black people, is because they did something, or they deserve it, or the idea that law is executed is a fair and just manner, and that it’s executed in a way that there’s no race, or there is no color, it is what it is, a level playing field. Obviously that’s incorrect. We went to this, we heard his story, we knew he was innocent, we could just feel it. We got involved and helped him make a website, helped him put the foot on the gas as far as getting most charges dropped. Something I’ve never been involved with before. I’ve never been involved in a campaign like that.
[Sarah:] Amazingly, even though he had been dealing with those charges for close to a year – it was over a year – we were able to, within a matter of 1-2 months, get those charges dropped. Along with several other people, I put a lot of pressure on the system to demand that they get dropped. It was just a situation of pure injustice playing out. So, we got the charges dropped, and through the process we became really good friends with Louis. We got to know him. I’d cook him a vegan lasagna and bring it over and share it with him. He hadn’t been exposed to vegan food at all, so through my racial justice advocacy, I started being able to introduce him and other people to vegan food. Surprisingly, he was really open to it. Sometimes you think people won’t, but he was open to it, he enjoyed it, he appreciated the food, and through that process we became close friends.
[Sarah:] He had gone through so much. He’d lost his vehicle, which was critical to him running his small business, which was a landscaping business with lawn mowing, snow removal, yard maintenance work. When he lost his vehicle, it was taken for an investigation and never returned, and he was never compensated for it, to this day. He had to move out of his apartment, where he had a perfect rental record, for over a year. He lost his business, his vehicle, and his housing. Once the charges were dropped we were like, yes, that impending threat is gone, because he was about to go to trial in two months of when they were dropped on August 2 of 2017 – we had a celebration, because it was amazing, miraculous.
[Sarah:] But his life had been leveled. Dan and I felt a strong commitment to help him rebuild his life. So we decided to go into business together, and Louis and his family have background in the restaurant industry. His sister is a successful restaurant owner, and Louis has experience in the industry as do Dan and I. Dan and I have a love for vegan cooking, vegan food. I have a strong love for perfecting vegan recipes, and making them as close as possible to nonvegan versions, that’s one of my passions, making things really accurate without the animal products. We decided to go into business. Initially we were going to do a food truck, and then through conversations with a business consultant we decided that our ultimate goal was to have a restaurant. Now it’s not just a restaurant with plant based food but also a community space where we’re combining our social justice activism with our plant based food and creating a special space in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis, where all those things come together. We’ve built that into the fabric of what Trio is all about.
Andy: Wow. That is truly quite the story. That brings us to Trio. You don’t have a brick and mortar yet, you started out by doing all these pop-ups. Can you tell us what these pop-ups have been like, what kind of food have you been serving, and what has the reception been from the community?
Sarah: The pop-ups have been so much fun. Definitely learned a lot already just from these pop-ups. We’ve had three so far. We have our next two pop-ups scheduled. Our first one was an extraVEGANza. We had way too much on the menu, looking back we were so excited about sharing all the food that we put so much on the menu. We had our house made chickpea salad, and that was a huge hit, nonvegans absolutely loved it. Then we had for our second course chicken and cheese quesadilla with chipotle cream sauce and served it with vegan sour cream, salsa, and that was also a really big hit. People couldn’t believe it was vegan! We had a vegan mozzarella and people loved it. For our main course, still on the first pop-up, we had barbeque chicken wings with special sauce from Louis’s sister’s BBQ restaurant, a strawberry barbeque. We had our homemade chicken wings, mac and cheese, and potato salad. For dessert we served what has now become our famous vanilla cake with strawberry sauce. We get requests and special orders for birthdays for that vanilla cake all the time. That was our first one.
Andy: [laugh] That’s quite the spread!
Sarah: [laugh] It was a little much, I gotta say. And we also had a choice of lemonade or hibiscus tea, brewed from scratch. The next two we have planned, Saturday April 28 at Breaking Bread Café. We have tickets on our website, trioplantbased.com. It’s going to be a vegan soul food dinner.
Andy: I’m drooling currently.
Sarah: I think you’re going to have to come out for that one.
Andy: So you’ve already mentioned learning to pare down the menu. Any other lessons you’ve learned over the course of doing these pop-ups?
Sarah: Honestly, I think the number one is to really pare down the menu, and not overdo it on the first event. The second one is, if you’re ever making a large quantity, professionally, or for a dinner party at your house, just make a lot of small batches rather than attempting to multiply it out and make giant batches. You can multiply a recipe two or three times, but if you go more than that the recipe can get really out of hand. Those would be my top two lessons so far.
Andy: Nice. Is this going to be the type of food that you’ll serve at the brick and mortar restaurant? Are you going for a specific theme?
Sarah: It’s going to be eclectic. The closest way to describe it would be comfort food. We’ll have comfort food that’s traditional and delicious like lasagna, cheeseburgers and fries. We’ll have delicious sandwiches. One of my favorite sandwiches to make at home, so we’ll definitely have it at the restaurant, is using The Herbivorous Butcher’s deli ham, which they’ve put pineapple juice in, with a slice of a white cheese, provolone, swiss – we’ll still have to source that – with lettuce and veganaise on an awesome bread. We have an awesome sour cream and cheddar chip that we’ll include on the menu.
Andy: Definitely going to be on the vegan map for Minneapolis for sure! You’ve already mentioned a little bit about this, but I’m wondering if you could elaborate on how your commitment to social justice will translate over to the type of restaurant this will be. Maybe it’ll be from who you’re hiring, to your business structure, or anything like that? Could you elaborate on what that’s going to look like for Trio?
Sarah: That’s a great question. From a business structure, each of the partners in the business, myself, Dan, and Louis, are all equal owners. Louis is a black man, I’m an Asian woman, and my husband is a white man. Our business is majority people of color owned, it has a woman of color ownership, and obviously a man of color ownership as well. We work together, we all have different strengths. We look to work together and utilize those strengths and appreciate our strengths and our differences that we bring, knowing that those differences are what make us strong. We all have different networks, different perspectives, different food inspirations, and so those will all be reflected in Trio.
[Sarah:] In addition, being involved in the racial justice movement here in Minneapolis and St Paul, you really find that you start to meet people that are truly, in many ways, struggling. Just from being more involved locally, I’m intimately aware of people who have needs that if someone wasn’t involved in the movement, living a relatively comfortable life, they might not realize that people are literally struggling to get to and from work because of gas costs. Or they may be working full time, even working two jobs, but they go to bed hungry. Or maybe it’s that their car is about to break down and they know they need a certain service but they can’t afford it. Maybe they’re working full time and they’re living out of a shelter, with kids. These are they types of scenarios that I have friends contacting me all the time who they don’t always ask for help, but if there’s opportunities and it seems appropriate, I’ll ask about how I can help utilize my network to help them, or just reach out and provide assistance if I can. And if it seems like that’s something they’re open to.
[Sarah:] So, I think just the sensitivity to the needs that are out there, with Trio, with the way our “justice” system is built, if someone has a challenging past where they were struggling to survive and maybe they technically have a criminal record because of trying to survive, doing something that’s illegal, they might have a really hard time finding a job. The way our system works is that they’re kept down, maybe forever, all the while being told by society to get your crap together and figure it out. I have so many friends who cannot go get jobs. That’s one thing with Trio, we want to find the right people for the business, and if they have a criminal background, that won’t necessarily prevent them from working with us. It’s more about the right fit of the person. That’s one area where we’re going to be using our knowledge that we have from the racial justice movement, taking that into our business when it comes to, “How are we uniquely positioned to offer opportunities that other businesses without that lens may not be readily offering?” and “How can we look at our business more as a vehicle to provide a shelter from ways that our society is really harsh on people?”
Andy: That’s awesome. I hope that you flourish and this can serve to provide a model for other businesses, vegan or not, to follow. I love that approach. This may be a bit of an aside, but I was curious to hear your perspective on this. Officially the name is Trio Plant-Based. The Trio is obvious because there’s three of you, but the Plant-Based, I’m wondering, what was your thought process in using that as opposed to Vegan?
Sarah: Initially when we were going through our names, we had vegan in the title. When we were going to do our food truck, we had the word vegan in the title. Dan and I have been vegan for six years this April. As our business evolved, we realized a couple things. One, while I identify as vegan, in many ways the term plant based opens you up to multiple benefits, benefits to animals, human health, and environmental benefits. I think the term plant based speaks to all three in a balanced manner, whereas vegan, while I am an animal rights activist, I embrace animal rights and I want people to have that transformation in their hearts, giving animals consideration and moral value – I really like keeping the term vegan strongly associated with animals and animal rights. Plant based, as we’re going to have a restaurant, will allow us to appeal to what draws to people to a plant based diet without diminishing my commitment to animals. Does that make sense?
Andy: Yeah, it does. I think that’s a great answer. We see businesses, restaurants specifically, take so many different routes with that and I’m always curious to hear the rationale. I don’t think there’s any one right answer but I love the answer that you gave.
Sarah: In addition, I feel so much responsibility with the term vegan that if it were in the title it would open up more questions around, should we only hire vegans? Something that I worry about and I’m going to bring a lot of consideration to is what if there’s conflicts between meeting health codes and needing to use certain chemicals to clean that aren’t vegan because they were tested on animals. Not something I want to have to do, but if it means the difference between not being able to open and broaden this plant based lifestyle, versus not, I might have to. So with the term vegan, I feel so much responsibility. As a vegan, I do anyway, regardless of the name of the restaurant. I feel so much responsibility with the term vegan to operate the restaurant from a vegan lens, an animal rights lens, versus being able to share the lifestyle with more and more people in a way that has broader potential to help animals, in a larger way.
Andy: Right on. I guess that’s something that I hadn’t really thought about, the cleaning chemicals and other things that aren’t necessarily just the food that goes into that. So if there’s one thing I know about restaurants, aside from the fact that I like going to them, is that they cost a lot of money to open and keep running. You’ve been doing these pop up shops, but you also recently launched a kickstarter. As of the time of recording this, I believe it’s been going for about a week. By the time this comes out it’ll be about halfway through the run. Tell us about the kickstarter. First off, why a kickstarter, why not some other funding route?
Sarah: Great question. Put simply, we went the kickstarter route out of necessity, and also the idea that our business is a community based business. With that social justice aspect to it, it’s something that we wanted the rest of the community that is in a position to be able to contribute, to be a part of it, and feel invested in it, literally. We decided to go the kickstarter route. Our goal is $50,000. We set the term at a standard term of 30 days. We have a total of 30 days from when it launched to raise the entire goal, all or nothing. If we don’t meet the goal, we don’t get any of the pledges, if we meet the goal, we get all of them. So far, we launched it on Saturday, March 31 and had a kickstarter launch party. That was amazing. We had so many wonderful people from the community come out, had some snacks, and came to celebrate and be in community with the idea that, hey, there’s something really special coming for all of us. Our goal was to raise 20% of our goal within the first three days. To our surprise, within one day, we were able to meet that 20%. We exceeded $10,000 in pledges. Last time I checked, we were around $13,000 or so, a few days later. Right now we’re just over 25% of the way. We’ve got quite a bit more to raise. It’ll allow us to open the restaurant. If we don’t get the funding, reach the goal, we won’t be able to proceed with the restaurant. So, it’s critical to us to be able to implement this unique vision and bring something special to the community that hopefully can be a model to other people in other cities that want to combine their love of social justice in multiple ways, in their own space. Backing our kickstarter will help us get restaurant equipment that we need. Vegan, plant based food is prep heavy and there are specialized equipment that we need to get like blenders, mixers, heavy duty kitchen supplies that are pretty expensive. That’s where a lot of the kickstarter funds will be going, as well as having funds to ensure that we can operate successfully.
Andy: For those who choose to back the project, which I encourage everyone listening to do – I have already done it, go and do it! What can people get in return? What rewards are you offering for those that do back the project?
Sarah: If they go to trioplantbased.com/kickstarter, you’ll be able to find a link on that page to our kickstarter page. There you’ll see the variety of backing options. They start at $10. Some kickstarters take more than $10 to have permanent acknowledgment, right? We wanted everyone that contributes even $10 to know that they’re going to be permanently listed on our website as a supporter of Trio. This is a community based project and we wanted everyone to feel included. So at the intro level, you get that. As you get into the higher levels, we have some merchandise, buttons and stickers. As you go up, there are some food perks. We will ship our house made chex mix anywhere in the world at the $50 level. You get a variety of other perks. If you’re local to Minneapolis, you can get some of the perks like our vanilla cake with strawberry sauce, our ranch dressing. As you get to the $300 level, for locals, forever you get a free (nonalcoholic) beverage with your meal, as well as all the other perks. That’s a fun perk because it keeps on giving! Once you get up to the $500 level, you get private dinners cooked by us at the restaurant after we open. We’ll have one day a week where we’ll be closed, Mondays, and we’ll actually cook a private dinner for four, eight, forty people, depending on the level. The super exciting perks that we have are – are you familiar with Tabitha Brown, who made the Whole Foods TTLA famous?
Andy: I have seen the video, yes!
Sarah: She is so adorable! Find her on facebook if you haven’t seen her – Tabitha Brown, TTLA (Tempeh, Tomato, Lettuce, Avocado). She’s a super adorable, lovable – I’m in love with her, she’s so cute – she’s an actress from LA who made this video about the TTLA sandwich from Whole Foods. She went live in her car talking about the sandwich and it went viral. She’s now hired on by Whole Foods to do advertising. The exciting news is that we have some perks on our kickstarter that are related to her! She’s going to be at our grand opening once we set that date, we’re flying her in. There’s some perks where you can have a VIP/early entrance pass, get there early before the crowds and hang out and talk with her. That’s limited to only ten people, so you’d definitely get a chance to chat with her. Then there’s another perk where you can actually have dinner with Tabitha, be one of a limited number of people at Tabitha’s table for the entire dinner. There’s one perk that’s at the $5,000 level. On the weekdays around 6pm Pacific, Tabitha goes live and cooks something vegan, introducing people to plant based eating, and people love her, they adore her. At the $5,000 level, she’ll do, in Minneapolis, do a Tabitha Brown Kitchen Takeover. It’s a new thing, she’ll come into your kitchen and cook something vegan with you. You can invite up to ten friends or family to be there. It’s the coolest perk! I was joking to her that I’m going to have a hard time not getting that perk myself, but that totally defeats the purpose of the kickstarter. [laugh]
Andy: Wow, those are some awesome perks! Tabitha’s definitely very energetic and entertaining. That’s a real treat for anyone who’s a big fan of her. We’ll put a link to the kickstarter in the show notes, of course, but for anyone out there who wants help, contribute, spread the word, but don’t have any money to throw your way, how can people listening best support you other than financially?
Sarah: We appreciate everyone’s support. Our next goal is to get to the halfway point, $25,000, by the end of the day on April 13. If you can’t contribute financially, go to trioplantbased.com/kickstarter, or the show notes, and share with that your friends and family. That’s a huge help to us! We’re little at this point and a lot of people don’t know about us and what we’re trying to do and we have such a limited time to get that kickstarter funded. So if you’re listening and can help by sharing it, introducing a few friends, that would be amazing!
Andy: Perfect. Once again, that’s trioplantbased.com/kickstarter. That brings us to the end of our time together. Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I know you’re incredibly busy, so we really appreciate you coming on the show to talk about Trio with us.
Sarah: Thank you so much, Andy! I so appreciate the opportunity. I admire your work and can’t wait to tell my network about what you’re doing as well.
Andy: Awesome, thank you so much.
Paul: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Sarah Woodcock from Trio Plant Based. Again, as always, if you have any questions, or just want to say hi, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook at The Bearded Vegans. So, Andy, what do you have coming up?
Andy: This coming Saturday, April 14, I’ll be at the Wilmington Veg Fest in Wilmington, NC. That same day, Paul’s surrogate Josh is going to be at the New Hampshire Veg Fest in Manchester, NH. April 29, I’ll be at the Veg Fest, Michigan in Novi, Michigan. Same day, April 29, Paul’s surrogate Josh is doing the New England Veg Fest in Worcester, Massachusetts. May 5, I’ll be at the Cleveland Veg Fest in Cleveland, OH. All of those events, come find the Compassion Co table. I’ll be there. Come say, “What’s up, Beardo?” I’ll hook you up with a button and sticker. I’m going to try and send some of those along with Josh for those events, the NH Veg Fest and the New England Veg Fest, so people can get them, in case they miss us. No promises just yet. Those are all the events. For all the dates, deets, and links just head over to compassionco.com.
Paul: There may not be any stickers left, because currently I have a good supply but I recently put one up in a place where there are other stickers, and someone took it down. So now I’m going to put two up in the spot where it was before, and if they take those down I’m going to put four – so I may use up all of the bearded vegans stickers. So if Josh doesn’t have any stickers, I’m sorry about that. I’m in a sticker war with some anonymous person.
Andy: [laugh] I hope eventually it gets to the point where you just spell out THE BEARDED VEGANS in stickers.
Paul: [laugh] Perfect.
Andy: Paul, with all this movie talk I’m so excited for everything that’s coming out. The one thing you didn’t mention about that series that’s kind of like Rotten, was something that gives me a lot of hope for how it’s going to turn out, is the fact that they have this trailer. And at the very end of the trailer, they just include the following seven words:
Paul: We are the bearded vegans, signing off!
[OUTRO MUSIC: PRISON SONG – SYSTEM OF A DOWN]
Andy: And last time I stopped at hat – half – laugh – ah.
Andy: So I’m in Louisville, Kentucky right now – that’s not even true, I’m in Nashville. [laugh]
Andy: There’s a cop slowly heading my way, I wonder if they’re going to ask me if I’m recording a podcast.
Paul: … is creating a new docu series … [pause][mumbling] oh, okay, I see what you’re doing there. Okay. Take three.
Sarah: We had a green salad with my house made ranch recipe which people have been asking for that by the container because they like it so much. We have someone who self identifies as a ranch enthusiast. She’s ordered in bulk already. It’s the best ranch she’s ever had and I don’t think she’s vegan.
Andy: Very nice. I aspire to be a ranch enthusiast in my life.
Andy: How many grams of protein is that?
Paul: 30 grams of protein for every sausage. It’s tremendous.
Andy: Not too shabby.
Paul: Not too shabby at all, and I usually – here’s the behind the scenes, tricks of the trade, I usually take a paper towel and squeeze them because they have so much oil on them in the package. Throw it in the microwave, zap it up, and pop it in my mouth.
Andy: You heard it here first, a hot tip from Paul Steller.