Could the 1977 VW van that carried Hilda (our first rescued animal) to safety and played a pivotal role in the creation of Farm Sanctuary make it across the U.S. after sitting idle for more than 15 years? That was a question on many people’s minds as we prepared for the Just Eats Tour, a cross country trip to explore vegan America that depended on our old van to bring us from New York to California.
The Just Eats Tour started in New York City, where we visited incredible vegan eateries, attended Farm Sanctuary’s 25th Anniversary Gala, and participated in the Veggie Pride Parade. We left the Big Apple on a rainy evening and headed toward Wilmington, DE. As we drove along the bumpy, potholed roads of New York and New Jersey, a projectile blew a hole in our driver’s side headlight and sent a chrome ring around the light flying. It was our first day on the road, we had more than 5,000 miles to go, and we already had a vehicular mishap. Would the old van make it?
Thankfully, the van kept rolling, even though it lost a few parts here and there. We also had to replace three tires. One blew out going 70 miles per hour on a hot Texas highway - it exploded, bending metal, dislodging our battery, and knocking out the tail lights. Although we were delayed, we continued on, and happily, after three weeks on the road, the van pulled into Orland, CA, in time for Farm Sanctuary’s annual Hoe Down. It was a beautiful event and the perfect conclusion to our cross -country exploration.
Besides the dependability of our old VW van, we were taken by the remarkable passion and diversity of America’s vegan food movement. We found vegans in urban and rural areas, representing all shapes and sizes, ethnicities and lifestyles. We met entrepreneurs, authors, academics, and spiritual and business leaders. We spoke with people who have been vegan for decades and others who just recently decided to forego animal products. And we also met second and third generations of vegans. The vegan movement is bringing people of different ages and various backgrounds together around common interests.
Restaurants are catching on, experimenting with vegan dishes and reporting strong demand. They have been impressed by how enthusiastic and appreciative vegan customers are to see plant-based options. The vegan community is helping these businesses to make plant foods more widely available, providing menu suggestions, product recommendations, and even recipes and food preparation tips. And with more vegan options available, omnivores are increasingly choosing them. Everywhere we went across the U.S., we saw that the vegan movement is vibrant and growing!