“But where do you get your protein?” Usually a loaded question but one I did not hear for two straight days this past weekend. Why? Because I was in plant-based heaven.
Last year I attended Plant-Stock (you can read that experience here). I had traveled the 3,000 miles from California all by myself to attend this two day conference held on the farm and home of the Esselstyn family. This year, I had a friend.
Sit back and settle in as this may be one of my more “lengthy” posts filled to the brim with photos from a weekend that completely blew me away. It is worth the read though so grab a cup of tea and relax.
Stonegate and I took a red-eye out of California which headed direct to Boston. Our layover in Boston wasn’t terrible. We recovered from our overnight flight and talked about how excited we were for the weekend ahead. Stonegate also made fun of my “folder making” habit … When I travel or do anything that requires planning, I make folders. What can I say? I am a very organized person.
Forty-five minutes and one tiny plane later, we landed in Newark Airport. Stonegate hopped on a train and headed to NYC to visit with some family. I met my dad and headed to my hometown in NJ for a quick visit.
Sad to leave my family, I then drove the 3 hours (usually 2.5 but there was an accident) to upstate New York where I checked into our hotel and scored a gluten and oil free vegan pizza from Baba Louie’s Pizza in Hudson, New York. It is the best vegan pizza I have had ever.
Later that evening, I picked Stonegate up at the train station and brought her back to the hotel. We ate pizza and seriously laughed the night away (I think we were deliriously tired from traveling). We were beyond excited for our weekend to begin.
Saturday morning bright and early we drove to the Esselstyn Family Farm in Claverack, NY. This place is breath-taking. 500 acres of the most amazing fields you have ever seen. It is one of two farms in the entire state that is owned by the same family dating back many centuries.
We checked in and took our seats and were treated to a plant-strong breakfast. Speakers were just wandering around. Attendees were trickling in. I saw people who in “my world,” are celebrities just mingling with everyone.
The format was such that someone would talk and then we’d have a break. This was nice as it helped get us out of our seats and kept us moving.
On one of the breaks, I saw Dr. Garth Davis. He had been surrounded by people since he had arrived but suddenly, he wasn’t. I walked over and introduced myself. We chatted a bit about his book, his blog, his posts on Facebook (follow him if you don’t already) and just how “enthusiastic” he is about a plant-based diet. Stonegate took some photos of us.
He was incredibly genuine and easy to talk to. I admire his drive in promoting plants over meat and I am blown away by his intelligence and ability to prove his point. He was a new addition to the Plant-Stock line up this year and one I truly hope they continue to have. His talk the next day was a hit.
During one of the breaks, I met a super nice guy who was also there taking photos for the event. He was about as local as you could get living just 5 minutes from the farm. We talked quite a bit and he told me that one of his jobs that day was to head to the train station to pick up Rich Roll. WHAT?! He was super chill about it but at the same time, feeling incredibly lucky because he’s a huge fan and I am sure was beyond excited to have the chance to have that 20 minute drive with Rich Roll.
Later, when Rich Roll arrived, we had been on a break. I saw my opening and I took it. I walked up to Rich and introduced myself. He had been talking to Howard Jacobson, Ph.D. (who I had met and talked with earlier) and Josh LaJaunie (another exciting athlete that I follow and had chatted with earlier). I explained to Rich that Vans was a huge fan. So much so that he even read his book (and Vans doesn’t read books often). I explained that his birthday was in a day and he was home with two kids while I was here, meeting him. He laughed. I told him he could potentially save my marriage if he’d do a birthday message video to Vans. He kindly obliged.
Stonegate wasn’t around to see this and was floored when I found her and showed her the video. She got a photo with Rich too.
What a great guy and yes, Vans was totally blown away. Marriage saved! 🙂
We also heard from Adam Sud whose talk brought me to tears quite a few times. Such an inspirational guy and I am so happy he is out spreading his message.
Next we heard from James Wilks who is a retired professional mixed martial artist and winner of The Ultimate Fighter but who is currently a film producer. The work he is doing is super exciting and I cannot wait for it to be released to the public. He was also another incredibly nice person.
James actually ended up sitting with us at dinner and we chatted about his family and his plant-based kids and how he handles certain situations. It truly was a once in a lifetime mind blowing experience.
Dinner was fabulous. The setting was beautiful. The food was outstanding.
It was a five course meal for 420 people and the plates were delivered still hot and right on time. That rarely happens.
After dinner, we heard from Rich Roll, our final speaker of the day. His talk was great. It was filled with humor and inspiration. Rich has a tremendous way with words and it was a great way to end what had been an amazing day.
Stonegate and I left feeling excited, energized and motivated but also pretty darn tired. Our three hour time change was still looming over our heads a bit. We were eager to get to sleep because Sunday was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity that will forever be etched in our minds.
At least fifty people were interested. There was also a group walking with Jane Esselstyn so you didn’t have to run the full 3 miles. Stonegate and I were bursting with excitement for this. Also joining the run was Dr. Garth Davis, Howard Jacobson, Rip Esselstyn (with his 2 year daughter Hope on his shoulders) and Josh LaJaunie! How freaking cool!? My friend Tara, who works for Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 was also able to run and Michael, my photographer friend also made it! I was smiling from ear to ear the entire time.
The run was not as easy as many would think. When you are not used to humidity as thick as it is on the east coast, it feels like your lungs are running in water. Your breath and your chest feel it first. Pushing any uncomfortable feelings aside, I just ran like I was a child again.
Scott Jurek worked his way back through the group so that he could chat with everyone. He reached us just as we were going up a steep hill. He is a super nice guy who remembered where a lot of people were from which blows my mind. He truly was listening to everyone.
The run ended with the whole group going up this big hill with a picturesque view. Josh LaJaunie was standing at the top and I could hear him cheering as everyone was climbing. I decided I had to run the whole thing and I did and he cheered and gave me a high-five as I reached the top. Nice!
Scott stayed and took photos with EVERYONE. Stonegate and I took photos with him solo and as part of a group.
Michael, our photographer expert took some AMAZING photos during the run as well as after.
Talk about an amazing way to begin the day. Seriously, I know my kids would disagree, but this was better than Christmas!
After breakfast we heard from Dr. Esselstyn again. His second talk I think is more mind blowing for the non-scientific folk. Stonegate I know was blown away by some of slides showing the reversal of heart disease.
Sunday was the day we heard from Dr. Garth Davis. His talk was fantastic. Full of energy, humor and some pretty great slides.
We heard from Dr. Richard Oppenlander as well. I have not read his books yet but I plan to. His presentation was focused on our environment and how it will not survive if we continue on the path we are headed. Living in California I see this first hand with our drought. Most of our water is feeding cattle and could, in fact be used in a better more economical and sustainable way that could save our planet and rid the world of hunger.
Dr. Doug Lisle spoke again on Sunday and I absolutely hands down LOVE this talk that he does. He did the same talk last year and I loved it then too. His talk, How to Get Along, Without Going Along is an absolute must at a conference like this. He understands that we will walk away feeling like we have found the “Holy Grail of health” and like the kind people we are, we will want to share it with EVERYONE.WE.MEET. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t want to hear it. Dr. Lisle provides everyone with the tools and the knowledge to handle certain situations when you leave Plant-Stock.
Stonegate and I had met a lovely Canadian couple at dinner the night before and the wife was discussing this very situation. Her coworkers don’t understand and she doesn’t know how to handle it. I told her to wait and hear Dr. Lisle’s talk. Afterwards, I found her and she was bubbling. She loved it and thought that it hit the nail on the head and felt ready to head home with some additional knowledge.
We also saw a cooking demo (aka comedy show) with Ann and Jane Esselstyn.
These two ladies have my heart. Their energy and laughter are infectious. I would love to be at their house on Thanksgiving morning helping them prepare meals. It must be a hoot.
They also had a plant-strong family discussion with all of Dr. Esselstyn’s kids (Rip, Ted, Zeb and Jane) and their spouses. Between them all, there are a lot of grandkids, who are also all entirely plant-based. This discussion was new and I found it very interesting. Although, I would LOVE for them to meet my picky Peanut someday as I think she could give them a run for their money. 😉
Right before this, Rip’s 9 year old son Cole showed off his plant-strong muscles by climbing the pole of the tent we were sitting under. Insane. I glanced at Rip to see if he was as nervous as I was during this. That kid climbed to the top!
The final talk of the entire day was Scott Jurek. He took the stage with his wife Jenny and 3 month old daughter Raven. They were lovely. His presentation was on his 46 day 2,189 mile journey through the Appalachian Trail. It was engaging to watch. He also saved time at the end for questions from the audience.
And sadly, the weekend had come to a close. We knew it was bound to happen but I just didn’t want it to end. The weather had cooperated for most of it, the speakers were great and I met so many lovely people this year. Stonegate and I said our goodbyes to Michael the photographer and exchanged contact information. I went in search of my friend Tara but unfortunately, she had already left.
The rain had started to fall as we were ending the day. It was almost fitting. Semi pushing us out the door seeking cover ready to move on. We were leaving the comfortable nest of Plant-Stock.
I am not going to lie, the car ride back to New Jersey scared me out of my mind. Torrential, can’t see the road in front of you down pours almost the entire way. I live in California now, we’ve been in a drought for four years. I haven’t driven in rain like that in a VERY long time. Holy cow.
Overall, the weekend was a blast. Despite it being my second year in a row, I did learn quite a few new things I hadn’t before and I met so many more amazing people this time around. From speakers to attendees, the people I met and conversed with over the course of the weekend really touched me. So many stories, so much emotion, Plant-Stock is a place where anyone is welcome and there is no judgment.
I truly hope to attend next year. The cost of travel isn’t easy for my family but they do see how charged and motivated I am when I return. Next year, I would love to bring Vans and I know Stonegate would love to bring her spouse. Let’s just hope they can handle a little east coast run!
SHOUT OUT: Hey upstate New York readers and friends, if you are EVER looking for a photographer for an event, family photos, you name it, please check out Molinski Photography (click here). Their work is stellar and some of the nicest people you will meet. Thank you Michael for all the amazing photos.
DISCLAIMER, I was in no way compensated for writing this post or for attending Plant-Stock. All opinions are my own. I 100% believe in the message they are sending. If you are interested in attending Plant-Stock 2017, please check out this link.