Of course everyone knows that the Deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead from concert to concert made the band the musical powerhouse that it became.
And as the Grateful Dead settle into Soldier Field for the band’s final shows this weekend, it’s also a good time to remember that those Deadheads had a lot to do with moving the veggie hot dog into mainstream popularity.
In his book “Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” (Rodale, $29.99), co-founder and president Gene Baur tells how the Farm Sanctuary came to be. (I wrote about it here; don’t miss the recipe.) His lifelong love of animals and desire to rescue farm animals in particular led Baur and Lorri Houston to start the organization. (Today it has shelters for animals in New York and California and the organization continues to shed light on animal abuses and push for humane legislation for farm animals.)
Like any effort, to get their message out and do the work, they needed money. As Baur writes in his book, they’d set up outside zoos and green festivals and hand out their pamphlets and take donations.
But what really brought in the money was taking the Volkswagen van and setting it up outside Grateful Dead concerts. From that van they’d sell veggie dogs and spread the word about the Farm Sanctuary. You know how marketers always advise one knows his audience? Well, Baur could see that this was not only a crowd open to his message, but equally interested in giving a tofu dog a try. Plus every Grateful Dead concert drew thousands of fans. Fans who had to eat.
“We were able to make several thousand dollars in a couple days at each concert stop,” Baur writes. He credits a Deadhead for giving them the idea for Farm Sanctuary’s first bumper sticker:
“If you love animals called pets,
Why do you eat animals called dinner?”
And like I said, today the veggie dog is very much a part of the mainstream American food culture. You can find them at supermarkets and restaurants everywhere.
Going full circle, when Baur heard about the farewell tour, he convinced concert promoters to sell veggie hot dogs inside Soldier Field at the concerts.
So if you’re lucky enough to have snagged a ticket, enjoy a veggie dog and think of the good work it has helped Baur and his organization accomplish.