What do you get when you prepare the following recipe?
- Assemble 14 bright and eager students from across the country and overseas.
- Add 15 outstanding instructors who are experts in their fields.
- Warm things up with a friendly black poodle and a rescued, half-blind pigeon.
- Gently fold them all into Victoria Moran’s lovely Manhattan living room.
- Stir in lively, thought-provoking conversations about veganism, communications, and business management.
- Sprinkle in some adventure by taking afternoon field trips to thriving vegan businesses across New York City.
- Allow this mixture to marinate for six days.
And here’s what you get: Magic. You get life-inspiring, world-changing, vegan magic.
28 Classes and 470 Graduates
The recipe shown above was created by Victoria Moran, a vegan superstar, as the formula for Main Street Vegan Academy. It’s a program that offers a certificate in Vegan Lifestyle Coaching and Education, which can be a stepping stone to many different types of businesses or careers. Graduates are empowered to spread veganism by encouraging “the adoption and maintenance of a positive vegan lifestyle and health-promoting diet.” As of this writing, Victoria has delivered the Main Street Vegan Academy curriculum to 28 classes, totaling about 470 graduates. I took the course in the fall of 2019, and this article summarizes my observations.
Preparation for the Course
Observation #1. The course prerequisites provide a firm foundation on a wide variety of topics related to veganism. Victoria requires her students to read seven well-known books and listen to 21 of the programs in the archives of Main Street Vegan Podcast on Unity Radio. I selected from a fully-laden smorgasbord of podcast topics, which fall into diverse topic areas: health and nutrition; fitness; cuisine; animal rights; environment; and spirituality.
I especially enjoyed listening to the podcasts that featured interviews with people I already know—including Saurabh Dalal, who (like me) is a member of the Veg Society of DC board; Terry Cummings, who runs Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, where I have volunteered; and Russell Elleven, who was formerly a colleague of mine on the board of Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry. The other 18 podcasts that I chose gave me a valuable introduction to exciting vegan trends and to many of the movers and shakers in the vegan movement.
A Powerful Leader
Observation #2. Victoria Moran is a force of nature. By the time I traveled to NYC for the course, I felt as though I already knew Victoria—because her voice on the podcasts had very effectively conveyed her warmth, intelligence, and wit. And those qualities were even more evident when I met Victoria in person. But that’s not all. Victoria beautifully exemplifies the numerous benefits of the vegan lifestyle: she’s active, slender, and energetic yet calm. So I’m not at all surprised that she has developed a network of the best and brightest people in the vegan movement. She’s really smart, and she gets things done.
Observation #3. The instructors are amazing, and they provide real-world information that will be extremely useful to me and other aspiring vegan lifestyle coaches. Want to know how to do a top-notch food demo (or make delicious vegan chocolate desserts)? Chef Fran Costigan (shown with me in the photo on the right) will teach you that. Need to learn what it means to be a professional? Victoria Moran will tell you all about the hallmarks of a pro: quality work, responsibility, thoughtfulness, honesty, and more. Perhaps you need to brush up on vegan nutrition. Marty Davey—aka “La Diva Dietition”—will teach you how to answer the ubiquitous question about where vegans get their protein, and she will also tell you about healthy vegan eating in all stages of life. Want to know how to launch a business and grow your brand? J.L. Fields will use her experience as a freelance writer and cookbook author to help you develop an action plan.
Need to learn what’s involved with selling a vegan product? David Benzaquen will tell you how to identify a market opportunity, set the right price, and then scale up your production. If you are new to social media and electronic marketing, Sharon Nazarian (shown with me in the photo on the left) will teach you that it’s important to start with a web page—and then build your following on social media by being consistent, creating good content, and using analytics to measure success.
Need to learn how to be an effective coach? Tatiana Forero-Puerta (shown with me in the photo on the right) will teach you how to interact with your clients and how to structure each session. Are you wondering about the use of animals in fashion? Joshua Katcher will show you that cruelty to animals is rampant in the fashion industry—but that (thankfully) many brands are finally going fur-free, and it’s certainly possible to build a high-end fashion company (like he has done) without using any animal products. Want to know how to be an effective animal activist? Michael Suchman will encourage you to show other people that vegan food can be wonderful and to tell them that aspiring vegans don’t have to give up anything—except cruelty.
Need to learn how animal products affect your health? Dr. Robert Ostfeld will show you how a plant-based diet compares favorably against other popular diets (such as ketogenic and Mediterranean). If you’d like to find out about helping families make the transition to a plant-based diet, Jennifer Gannett will show you how to help them discover new recipes, clean out their pantry, get some handy kitchen tools, and find vegan eats when traveling. Want to know about animal rights? Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer (shown in the photo on the left) will tell you that animals are not very well protected by the law, but that the single best way to advocate for animals is by serving people delicious vegan food.
Perhaps you would like to find out how animal agriculture has harmed our environment. Martin Rowe will show you that using animals as food is a major contributor to climate change and other serious environmental problems—and that hope for the future can be found in wind power, solar power, technological innovations, and cellular agriculture. And do you need a hefty dose of inspiration for the vegan journey? Doc G (shown with me in the photo on the right) will encourage you to discover your superpower, be your authentic self, and invest the time needed to build success.
Of course, all of these instructors will teach you way more than this brief summary indicates; still, I hope it provides a useful introduction to what you could learn as a student of the academy.
Making New Friends
Observation #4. The other students provided half of the fun in the course. And we built up some great camaraderie in a relatively short period of time. Our class was amazingly diverse in many different ways: age (ranging from pre-teen to folks in their 60s; gender; ethnicity; sexual orientation; occupation; current place of residence, and career aspirations. Thanks to all of you for becoming my new friends: Abigail, Zach, Courtnay, Gina, Vegan Evan and his mom Shannon (shown in the photo on the leftt), Jay, Angela, Anita, Nina, Shauny, Zosha, and Ishat. Please keep in touch.
Visiting Vegan Businesses
Observation #5. Vegan businesses are thriving. During our field trips we visited a wide variety of stores that are selling fabulous vegan products, including: cheeses, shoes, baked goods, soaps and lotions, chocolate candy, donuts, and more. It’s exciting to see that vegan entrepreneurs are finding and filling lucrative niches.
We’re Not Done Yet
Observation #6. We still have a lot of work to do. Even though I was essentially living in a vegan bubble during the academy, our excursions on the town reminded me that our way of life is not yet predominant. Our field trips showed me that the New York City streets are lined with many non-vegan establishments, including restaurants that offer all sorts of animal-based foods and boutiques that sell leather goods and down jackets.
Also, during the time that we were sitting in Victoria’s living room—actively learning how to live a more compassionate lifestyle—members of the orthodox Jewish community in New York City were sacrificing 60,000 chickens in their annual Kapparot ritual. As I have written in a previous blog post, I find this practice to be very distressing, and it raises many questions for me, such as: Why is it right for the innocent chicken to be used to assume the penalty of a human’s sins? And why is it not enough for the human to ask God directly for forgiveness?
Still, I am hopeful that we are close to a tipping point in the way that humans relate to animals. After all, people have enthusiastically embraced the plant-based Impossible Burger, elephants are no longer forced to parade in the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, and Sea World has stopped breeding orcas. It’s a start.
The Bottom Line
So, in the end, what did I gain from this adventure? I gained: clarity about my next steps; inspiration for the road ahead; valuable knowledge and tools that will help me to launch a coaching practice; friends to help me along the way; and access to a robust network of academy graduates through a Facebook group and a regularly updated directory of graduates.
And just like I said earlier: It was life-inspiring, world-changing, vegan magic.
Reposted with permission from Olive the Thyme Kitchen
Leigh Scott is a vegan chef and food blogger at www.olivethethymekitchen. Following a 25-year career as an environmental educator, she earned her culinary certificate in 2016 from the School of Natural Cookery in Colorado. Leigh has recently completed Rouxbe’s Forks Over Knives course, and she specializes in whole-food, plant-based cooking. She also serves on the boards of the Veg Society of DC and Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry. Leigh earned her VLCE certificate in 2019.