The 43rd Annual Conference of the North American Vegetarian Society took place July 5 – 9, 2017 on the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus. 

How Do You Do Your Vegan?

Do you vegan or do you plant-based whole foods? Do you dabble toes or dive right in? Topics like these and many more are the morsels that when combined make for a philosophical feast (remember to chew). Whether you are vegan for the animals, the environment, for the ethics, or for the health: there is a lot of valuable information for every kind of interest at Vegetarian Summerfest.

This is Johnny from ecoRDN and I’m going to tell you about my experience as a repeat guest. This was my second year in attendance. I went into it knowing what to expect and build from what I took away last year. For a recap of last year check out our Highlights of Vegetarian Summerfest 2016.

My biggest takeaway is that while we may subscribe to particular philosophies under the vegan umbrella, each piece is linked together and forms a lengthy chain of compassion. While respect for animals is important, it is a singular piece of a larger puzzle. Wherein other pieces such as health & wellness, respect for the environment, and social justice play an equal role. I find it encouraging when meeting others who share this insight, and was very happy with the diversity of lectures at this year’s conference.


The Speakers

It’s an impossibility to take in everything and making the decision to see one talk over another is rarely easy. Darla loves to thoroughly pour through the program with highlighter and pen and map out each day’s itinerary around the always important mealtimes (so much amazing food, as you will see later!) I watch her plan out our days with childlike glee (because she does all the work), and make sure to get in at least one full hour of exercise either at the LLC fitness center or perhaps John Pierre and Anne Dinsha’s full-on bootcamp (my quads were on fire for days!)

The price of tickets may seem high but if you take full advantage of the experience it is well worth it. Cooking demos with amazing vegan chefs, science based lectures by national and internationally renowned doctors, vegan dietitians, vegan athletes, vegan entrepreneurs, vegan life-hackers, who all share their information with such engaging infectious passion it’s difficult to not come away recharged and inspired to go out and be better people everyday.

We had the very good fortune to hear from Dr. Kim Allan Williams – vegan cardiologist and immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology, Rae Sikora – 35 year full-time spokesperson for other species and the environment, Dr. Michael Greger – founder of and author of NY Times best seller How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, Dr. Neal Barnard  – President and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and author of numerous books including The Cheese Trap (a must-read for the vegetarians who can’t give up dairy), Miyoko Schinner – founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen artisan vegan cheese company and author of The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Virginia Messina, MPH, RD – registered dietitian with more than 25 years experience in the field of vegan nutrition and co-author of Even Vegans Die with Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman.

These are but a few of the many brilliant minds we encountered. To list all their genius would make this a Proust novel instead of a blog. But, for more information about all the speakers and their golden awesome, please follow the link to NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest Speakers 2017 💚


Slides from some of the plenaries, lectures and food demos.


The Special Presentation after the Farewell Dinner and showing of What the Health.



The Food

What Summerfest post would be complete without offering the utmost reverence for the amazing variety of cruelty-free options we were offered daily? Under the direction of Mark Reinfeld, who was also this year’s inductee into the NAVS Vegetarian Hall of Fame! Chef Mark was assisted by Chef Chris Jolly and Chef Gail Patek with guidance from NAVS, and they sure put on a show! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisted of the regular bar along with the SOS bar (no salt, oil, or sugar), a pizza bar, a gluten free bar, a salad bar, and a raw bar (for lunch and dinner only). Take a look at our pics and I dare you not to leave this post hungry!


More food! You never spend a minute hungry at Summerfest as well as three meals a day there are samples from food demos, snacks in the evenings and of course generous donations from Miyoko’s Kitchen!


The Summary

We are fortunate that our proximity to Summerfest is so close. People come from as far away as Canada, New York, Florida, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. We hop the Amtrak from Pittsburgh and arrive in Johnstown in 90 minutes, it’s almost like we are somehow hosts to all the many travelers as this is basically an extension of our own home “down the street”. I feel truly blessed and am indebted to my wife, my sweet Darla, for hipping me to this wonderful, grounding, and recharging event. This was my second year and I hope I’m able to attend every year. I am so thankful for everyone who shared their knowledge with us, who shared their compassion with us, who talked with us and welcomed us to talk with them. This path we chose is not always easy to navigate but I feel so very encouraged by all the like-minded people from so many diverse walks of life who choose to see this living world with the same empathetic eyes and open hearts and open minds.

Thank You!

As always, thanks for reading and eat well!

For a mouthwatering archive of foodie pics and all things nutritionally awesome, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

©2017 ecoRDN 💚




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