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Lennox Veg Fest champions plant-based diets, celebrates new food wave

Buenisimo Peruvian Food was one of the food trucks that came out to Veg Fest this weekend to celebrate a plant-based diet

By Garrett Ammesmaki

The Lennox area saw its first ever “Veg Fest” this weekend at The Good Earth Farm.

Over 300 people from the surrounding area came through the event on Saturday, which was aimed toward catching the wave of current food trends, connecting with the growing population of plant-based foodies in the area, and dispelling any rumors about being vegetarian or vegan, according to Nancy Kirstein, owner of The Good Earth Farm.

“Some people think vegan and vegetarian food is very bland or it’s just salads, but it’s not,” Kirstein said. “And it’s easier than you think.”

Along with four plant-based food vendors, and various craft stalls, the event saw three speakers present advice for vegetarian food plans, demonstrations on how to make kombucha, and watermelon smoothies, as well as give out samples of pudding made from avocado, and a vegan tuna salad made with garbanzo beans.

Denise Houchin was one of the presenters at this year’s Veg Fest. She owns Designed 2 Live Well, a Sioux Falls business focused on healthy living centered around a plant-based lifestyle. When she heard about the event, she saw it as a great opportunity to connect with people in the area.

“There are a lot of people who want to be healthier and have a different lifestyle, but they don’t know how to make the food or that it can taste amazing,” Houchin said.

Houchin started her own plant-based journey around 10 years ago, after suffering from multiple health problems due to her diet at the time. She dove into plant-based food, and never looked back. Her entire business, she said, was started due to her decision to get healthier, but she admits there are “two sides to every story.”

“Not everyone is cut out to be a vegan or a vegetarian,” Houchin said. “But not everyone is cut out to eat a standard American diet, either.”

While Houchin transitioned to the diet for health reasons, that isn’t the story for everyone. Kirstein said there are many reasons someone might want to switch over to a plant-based diet, from ethical and environmental concerns, to simply not liking meat, which is why she went vegetarian over 30 years ago.

Kirstein grew up on a dairy farm, where the family slaughtered their own livestock to eat.

“I never liked the taste of meat,” she said. So, when she was 22, she decided to go vegetarian. In a place with a culture devoted to meat, it hasn’t always been easy.

“My husband and I always have a hard time going out to eat because there aren’t many options other than a salad,” she said. But that’s changing as more vegan food trucks pop up around the area with the ongoing trend toward plant-based lifestyles.

It’s a trend that the state of South Dakota has been slow to adopt in relation to the rest of the country. Alongside an imbedded distrust of the health effects of vegan and vegetarian diets, that slowness is also tied to plant-based diets being considered a threat to the state’s economy.

The beef sector in South Dakota alone contributes roughly $2.28 billion in gross income to the state as of 2012, according to an article from South Dakota State University Extension.

In that same year, when the USDA supported “Meatless Monday,” Senator John Thune considered it the act of an “adversary” in regards to the South Dakota economy, according to an op-ed on his website.

But in 2022, it’s common knowledge that places across the country are embracing vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. It was a large reason for this years Veg Fest.

“We know there is a food movement that’s happening, and we wanted to celebrate that,” Kirstein said.

With a better turn out than they anticipated, and an outpouring of support and excitement for the next event, The Good Earth Farm plans on making Veg Fest an annual thing. The only changes Kirstein has in mind is to make it bigger. As for the plant-based lifestyle being unhealthy?

Like any diet, Kirstein said, there are plenty of unhealthy vegetarian and vegan options and diets. The trick is to know what you’re doing.

“There are so many misconceptions about vegetarian diets not being healthy,” she said. “As an ultra-marathon runner, I’m living proof that’s not true.”


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