Seed Food & Wine Fest: "We Want This to Be a Movement"

A vegan food fest may not be revolutionary in some parts of the world, but in a city that worships all things pork, an entire weekend revolving around leafy greens and plant-based protein is pretty amazing.

Alison Burgos and Michelle Gaber's brainchild is a new breed of plant-based celebration -- an inclusive event designed to appeal to omnivores and herbivores alike. No factory farm footage, no tasteless raw sprouts, no dietary dogma. Just fun, food and a sexy Miami vibe.

The idea behind Seed Food & Wine Festival is to let South Floridians know that a plant-based lifestyle can be delicious, nutritious and beneficial for everyone -- the animals and environment included. We spoke to Burgos and Gaber for the full story on how Seed came to be.

See also: Seed Food & Wine Festival: First Large-Scale Vegan Event in Miami and Only One in Florida

New Times: How did this festival idea come to be?
Alison Burgos: When we met Michelle was mainly vegan and I was not.

Michelle Gaber: That was April 29th, 2007.

Alison: About a year into our relationship, I got sick. We weren't sure what it was, which was pretty scary. All of a sudden, I couldn't use my leg or my arm. I went to a series of doctors and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. They gave me a high dosage of steroids and started me on several treatments. I was on Methotrexate, which is kind of like a lighter dose of chemotherapy. It's a standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. I was getting weekly injections and steroids. It took them awhile to really get it under control. Over the course of two years, it really started attacking my knee and getting worse and worse.

We're really blessed that we have a lot of friends who are really into alternative medicine and holistic therapies that really wanted me to take that route. I love my rheumatologist but after about two and a half years, I lost use of my knee. I was on crutches and then I was in a wheelchair, which was not fun. It was my fault -- I didn't take care of my body, I was constantly stressed, I never stopped. I did this to myself. After losing my knee, I convinced the doctors to give me a total knee replacement. After going through with the surgery, I knew I didn't want to go through this again. It was not fun. Taking the advice of my friends, I went and met with a nutritionist, a Chinese herbalist and an acupuncturist. They gave me physical therapy, weekly acupuncture and put me on a 90-day vegan cleanse. I would take a mixture of herbs, fruits and vegetables only and like a quarter cup of nuts and like a quarter cup of brown rice. Which for somebody who struggled with food addiction and overeating my entire life, it was really a change.

My SED rate (inflammation rate) dropped from 89 to 20 -- putting me completely in remission, which was amazing! That's kind of where our journey started of living a plant-based life, I saw what it could do. I was weaned off the Methotrexate, which has serious side effects. Your body becomes addicted to steroids. You have to teach your body to live without it. So they slowly weaned me off but I was feeling better than ever.

Michelle: During the time she was doing 90 days of vegetables, we were about a week and a half in. At this point I was not living a vegan lifestyle, I had strayed away from that for about a year. So she had bought me tickets to the Food and Wine Festival's Burger Bash. So we went and she couldn't eat anything. Even if she ate it it didn't feel good to her. We had a great time, we listened to music and got to see the celebrities and the whole thing, but we left there and I just looked at her and said 'There needs to be something sexy like this for vegans. A vegan burger bash. Why can't that happen?' I looked at her I'm like, 'You do events, let's do this.' It kind of sat on the back burner sits there in the bank of ideas and six, seven months ago she's like, we're gonna do it. So it was very very exciting.

Alison: We are more excited than ever about living a plant-based life -- it's a more sustainable way to live, it's gentler on the environment, there is no animal cruelty and so many health benefits.

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