Vegans and vegetarians unite at this year’s Vegtoberfest
We all love food, and this is no different with the members of Edmonton’s Vegans and Vegetarians of Alberta (VVOA). Although Oktoberfest has a slight lean towards meaty and cheesy foods, the VVOA has created their own form of celebrated Bavarian culture.
Vegtoberfest, a festival aimed at catering to vegans and vegetarians in Edmonton, will host a kickoff market made up of 15 food and lifestyle vendors as well as two all-vegan food trucks to celebrate the fall season.
Beyond the bratwurst, beer is another product that is somewhat tricky to navigate as a herbivore.
Certain lagers and stouts use a clarifying agent that often contains animal by-products. Board member Nikki Krieger, who’s been a vegan for roughly three years and a vegetarian for eight, says though this can be difficult to navigate, there are multiple resources that exist.
“There’s a really awesome website called barnivore.com,” Krieger says. “You can type in any brand of liquor and it will tell you whether it’s vegan or not.”
She says the VVOA is also a valuable resource for those looking to learn about the details of certain products and preservatives, and whether they are vegan or vegetarian-friendly. Eric Swanson, executive director of VVOA, can attest to the amount of new knowledge he had to learn when making the switch, especially regarding by-products that may not be as clearly stated on the label.
The biggest switch for Kreiger was learning how to still get the proper nutrients for her body such as iron, zinc and calcium, without animal sources and by-products.
“We have a private group [on Facebook] where members can just ask any sort of question in relation to vegan and vegetarian stuff,” she says.
Many new vegans and vegetarians seek out the VVOA for a resource as well as a community. Swanson says he was the only one in his friends circle that was vegan when he switched five years ago, but things are changing.
While the not-for-profit group has been around for roughly 30 years, the group has seen rapid growth that stands to speak for the fact that vegans and vegetarians are no longer a niche group in the city.
Since 2015, the VVOA have increased by 1,000 members each year. This growth has inspired local businesses to cater to vegan and vegetarian diets and lifestyles.
Swanson and Krieger both originally struggled to find places to eat out when they first became vegan.
“Every five kilometres in the city now, there’s a restaurant you can go and get a vegan or vegetarian meal,” Swanson says.
The reasons for switching food choices is different for everyone.Swanson switched to a vegan diet for his health.
“I was having a lot of health concerns about having to get an operation for acid reflux and I was just like, ‘there’s got to be another way,’” he says.
For Krieger, she became a vegan for more ethical reasons. But both say it’s not just about health and ethics.
“It’s about everything,” says Swanson. “It’s about the environment, it’s about the animals, it’s about other people, it’s about the planet that we all share. It became like a force within me to share that with everyone.”
Both also tote the time-efficient and cost-effective benefits of their lifestyles.
“In our busy society, we’re always on the go,” Swanson says. “We have meetings, we have school, we have work, we have children we gotta take care of and drive and get to places, but to be on a busy schedule you have to have food available so you can quickly eat it. In reality, you can go to H&W [produce] on a very nominal $45 a week.”
With the number of vegans and vegetarians in the city steadily rising, the Vegtoberfest market has doubled since last year. But, they’ve essentially run out of space at Earth’s General Store parking lot, where the harvest market is held. The plan is to continue expanding and grow to a larger space for next year as VVOA numbers continue rising.
Sun., Oct. 1 (11 – 3 pm)
Vegtoberfest Kickoff Market
Earth’s General Store