VegSarasota Vegetarian & Vegan Meetup Group Message Board › What is life like for vegans/kind people in Sarasota/Bradenton?
Greetings. I was born and raised in Florida but moved away and I regret that. Now I want to move back, but one of my criteria for a place to move is that I want to be near vegans, vegetarians and animal rights people...a progressive community. That seems to be hard to find in most parts of Florida. I used to visit Sarasota 25 years ago, and it was a wonderful place, but I am curious about the situation now re traffic, pollution, noise, overcrowding, crime, whether the Gulf is swimmable (long-distance)...general quality of life for those who love the earth, quiet, swimming, bicycling, animals, Nature. I appreciate anyone who can provide me insight into the area.
|Ellen Jaffe J.||
Bradenton Beach, FL
I LOVE it here! I've lived/traveled/worked all over, and I still travel constantly. I have this overwhelming feeling to kiss the ground when I get off the plane and smell/feel the humidity. That may come from years of working outside in brutal weather in Des Moines and the Midwest.
It depends how you want to spend your time. Most of us can do our jobs remotely now. I'm an avid runner so I love to run on the beaches close to my home on Anna Maria Island where no new construction of any kind is allowed over 3 stories, and the only fast food that's here is Subway. I didn't know this when I moved here...we just told our real estate agent, "Get us as close to the water as you can on our budget." Our elected officials do a heroic job trying to fight developers who want to make us like Miami. Though some new homes nicknamed, "monstrosities" going up seem to absorb every square inch of the property. Many of us wonder if the "set-back" lines have been scrapped. The building code is very strict, but every once in awhile a builder gets caught and fined for calling the garage level a "recreation room," when in fact, it was one of 8 bedrooms in a house that was only supposed to have 4. You definitely don't want to live next to one of those mini-hotels.
Other challenges: Frequent bumper stickers that say, "I kill fish!" I'm all about compassion, but sometimes the cantankerous, polarizing in-your-face attitude seeps in here too, even in Paradise. And there still aren't any vegan restaurants unless you head to SRQ. I wrote my weekly column about Mr. Bones, an island BBQ place that actually advertised on the sign over their business, "Vegan & Vegetarian." Not long after, I was told they had such backlash they removed "vegan," but still kept "vegetarian." The same chef is still there, and they do have a few vegan options. That said, I cook mostly at home anyway to save money (so I can still live here). Or I just order side dishes until I get home. As Dr. McDougall says, "No one has ever starved to death waiting till they got home to eat."
I love walking/running the beach and seeing dolphins, baby turtles occasionally, and the many endangered (or not) bird species. I have tri friends who swim long distances in the Gulf when it is warm, which these days, may be an increasing number. I've researched the side-effects of the oil spill, and my sense is, the Correxcid, the dispersant used to clean it up, was/is more of a problem than the oil. When I fly at night, I'm blown away by the oil rigs that dot the entire Gulf like constellations. I think we're lucky to have not had another spill like the one a few years ago.
A guy was chewed by a shark off the northern end of our island last year, but given that the boaters were spear fishing, that was one of those greatly over-rated, sensational news stories. I've heard Tampa Bay is infested with sharks, but you don't hear about them like you do on the east coast of Florida. Just don't wear sparkling jewelry or swim suits, and you should be fine. I've never heard of a "normal" local swimmer encountering a shark.
All that said, "Bloom where you are planted," is a good mantra if living in a place allows you to be mission consistent with your values. The growing number of people attending Tampa and Orlando's vegfests tells me there are great people everywhere...you just have to search. Both of those cities have vibrant and active vegan communities.
Miami tried hard to get a vegfest going this year. But vegfests take a great deal of time and effort to organize. I'm hopeful Miami will get one next year. It would be awesome if SRQ could do one. I've been to most of the largest VegFests the past few years...even Hartford got one together. But it took an incredible woman who used a huge amount of personal money to rent the convention center for the day. The FL vegfests are mostly outside, which has some risk, of course. Except for events in Miami that are well tented, vendors that could have product or attendance damaged by rain generally prefer inside events.
I have been lucky to have lived in Miami in the 80's, and get back there now at least once a year on business. Public transportation is excellent. The traffic there is crazy, and it reminds me more of NYC. Yet, I adore the energy and activity. It's a much younger demographic spectrum. Also way more expensive. I often stay with a friend who rents a gorgeous condo on Brickell Key for about $2500/month. You can do it for less there though if you don't want to be close to the water.
The only major traffic here is during season on and off the Manatee and Cortez bridges. But from having lived elsewhere in FL, you just have to avoid the weekend drives on and off the island at peak hours. And accept that it is just part of living here. After seeing all the snow/ice news stories this past month, it seems like a tiny price to pay. Another story this week says Florida is on track to overtake New York as the third largest state in the next census. So let's make it a vegan mecca.
Deals can be had in Bradenton and on AMI. I've convinced more than one person to move here. Most recently, Tess Challis, who is a member of this group, I believe, stayed at my house while she and her hubby explored the area. I went with them and was blown away by how cheaply you can rent and buy here.
Some of our sailing friends have great deals on homes in Palmetto. Traffic can be a little congested on the two bridges from Bradenton into Palmetto. But again...relatively nothing compared to large cities.
SRQ's Whole Foods can be an hour drive from where I am during season...Nov-April-ish. Fresh Market opened about 10 minutes away and they have kindly donated all the food for my vegan cooking classes in February at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The center is a great facility that offers many classes, and they've been incredibly supportive.
This will be the first time I've taught my cooking classes since I started traveling on book tour. But when I taught PCRM's, The Cancer Project cooking classes when they first started 10 years ago, we had full classes twice a day, 5 days a week at the center! Of course, they were fully funded and free back then so I was able to teach all over. I was even asked by the Manatee County Health Department to teach classes, which I did for years.
I hope all this gives you an idea how hungry people are for this information. Even in this fishing community, people will be supportive. Sorry for the length, but you gave me an idea for my next weekly "Feasting on Fitness" column in the Anna Maria Island Sun. And that's another measure of success. The publisher, who actually worked for one of the two St. Louis daily papers when I was on TV there, is totally supportive and encourages me to write anything vegan.
I started a Bradenton Vegetarian/Vegan Meetup group a few years ago with not much response. I just started one again in an effort to find more people closer to home. It seems every 5K or longer race I run in, people come up to me and tell me they're vegan. That never happened when I first moved here. And with the growing population, I hope this time it will meet a need. I've got my cooking classes on the meet-up site, but probably won't schedule any more meet-ups until the classes are over and the Celebration marathon I'm doing is done.
Hope that helps, and all the best! And no, I don't work for the Chamber of Commerce.