Barb Troyer is a Bend, Oregon, based facilitator for changemakers and organizations doing good in the world. In 2016 she co-created A Broken Angel—a vegan food cart, catering, and training business—with Chef Richard Hull.
She also consults for select nonprofits, including as a coordinator for the Animal Place Food for Thought Campaign, and as a design/marketing expert for a local center teaching nonviolent communication skills.
Her volunteer projects including co-hosting All Things Vegan Radio and serving as co-executive director of VegNet Bend. Barb earned an M.A. in Humane Education in 2015.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
BT: I’m one of those people who always loved animals, but didn’t make the shift to veganism until well into adulthood. As I gradually opened my mind to a new way of thinking about animals, I was thrown a curve-ball in being laid off from my information technology (IT) job.
I had been actively building my IT career with one employer for about 5 years, after years of self-employment running a forensic science consultancy and working on various web development, graphic design, and writing/editing projects. A nagging feeling in the back of my mind had been causing me considerable discontent—with the type of clients I was obligated to work for in IT, and with the way women were treated there.
The layoff, although distressing, was a blessing in disguise (change often is!). Ultimately, I was relieved to be able to pursue other interests.
During these years, I had started producing All Things Vegan radio, a labor-of-love program for my local community radio station. A few months after I lost my job, I came across a mention of the Institute for Humane Education on social media and I thought, “We should interview Zoe Weil!” We did, and shortly thereafter I applied to the program.
Humane education broadened my awareness beyond animal protection and advocacy to the interrelated issues of human rights and the environment. Since enrolling and graduating from the program, I have been lucky enough to have crafted a career path working solely for myself and various nonprofits.
IHE: You’re involved in a lot of humane education/changemaking projects. Tell us a bit a couple of them.
BT: A Broken Angel Sustainable food cart and catering is a for-profit social business that I started in 2016 with my chef/partner Richard Hull—a 20+ year veteran chef, but 2-year new vegan. It’s a vegan food cart, catering, and training business based in Bend, Oregon.
A Broken Angel is a wonderful creative outlet, and I wouldn’t have expected this, but it’s some of the most fulfilling activism I’ve done! We deliberately chose not to advertise ourselves as “vegan” on the food cart itself (although we do so via social media). As a result, we have repeat neighborhood customers who would never have tried something they thought of as “weird.”
We have doctors sending patients to us who need to overhaul their diet and lifestyle in order to get healthy. And because of our easy-going non-preachy attitude when we’re staffing the cart or events, we’re approachable and are able to talk about animal welfare, health, sustainability, fair treatment of workers, and many other issues. We’ve gained fans and support from our community in unexpected places, and it’s so rewarding.
Learning the ins and outs of running a small independent food business has been challenging. Ordering, inventory, cash flow, logistics, social media, promotion—it never ends. And our first winter operating the food cart saw the most snowfall in 25 years in Central Oregon! This meant we were closed many more days than we anticipated.
My major project outside of A Broken Angel is the Food for Thought campaign, a program of Animal Place.
Food for Thought is an innovative and compassionate campaign intended to help animal welfare, wildlife, and environmental organizations adopt an animal-friendly, truly sustainable (veg) menu policy for their events.
We’re a small team spread across the United States, each with a specific region. I cover the Northwest (Oregon, Washington, B.C., Canada), and I also head up the Wildlife/Environmental branch of the campaign.
We not only work to identify those organizations that have an existing menu policy, but we actively encourage the adoption of a board-approved menu policy for those that don’t.
We develop resources to support these policies, including suggested event menus, a regional catering directory, sample policies, “Why Vegan” fact sheets, an advocate network, and so on. We also use light pressure techniques like our Shelter and Wildlife/Environmental report cards, and occasional targeting of organizations with particularly egregious policies.
Working on Food for Thought require focus, organization, patience, and a thick skin. A lot of our time is spent building databases and contacting organizations out of the blue—a sort of cold calling. Some individuals immediately get what we are doing and are on board. Others are openly defensive or hostile.
A unique challenge for me has been creating the Wildlife/Environmental arm of the campaign from scratch and trying out campaign strategies that will appeal to this group of nonprofits.
As far as successes go, bringing on a new endorser is something we celebrate, because the adoption of a formal menu policy within an organization is such a great example to their donors and members, as well as other nonprofits.
We have more than 270 endorsers now!
We were also pleased when a dog and cat shelter removed a foie gras dinner fundraising auction item after we widely publicized their plans. Although they still served animals on the menu at the event itself, we were able to address both issues of cruelty in our campaign strategy and to draw parallels between the treatment of some animals versus others.
IHE: What are your future plans for your humane education/changemaking work?
BT: During grad school, a vegan community resource center is an idea that I kept coming back to. A Broken Angel is actively looking for a place to house a small café and teaching kitchen in Bend, and this will be the seed of our resource center!
Teaching people to cook for themselves and educating the next generation of chefs is an important goal of ours. I can also see a collaborative cookbook/storybook in our future.
Personally, I would also like to return to an interview/writing project I started with my thesis, which focuses on the personal transformation stories of animal activists.
IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?
BT: I’ve never met another group of people so compassionate and committed to changing the world as in the IHE graduate program. I have made friends and colleagues for life through the program and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to broaden their worldview and be inspired to act within a supportive and engaging community.