The location of Maine’s statistical plant-based hot spot might surprise you. Spoiler alert, it’s not Portland. Turns out, Kittery claims the title.

I crunched the numbers in a data set I maintain and discovered Kittery — Maine’s southernmost and oldest town (incorporated 1647) — has the highest per capita number of vegan and vegetarian food businesses.

Kittery plant-based restaurant The Juicery, along with several other vegan food businesses, helps draw tourists to town. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

They are: The Juicery, a vegetarian juice and smoothie spot that operates from a former bank kiosk in Wallingford Square; Lovebirds, a nationally recognized gourmet vegan doughnut shop on Route 1; Toast, a breakfast and lunch bar in Kittery Foreside selling its signature gluten-free, sourdough bread with plant-based toppings; Planted, a manufacturer whose plant-based sauces and dips can be found at local retailers including Toast and Lovebirds; and T.H.E. Farm, where two vegan farmers cultivate vegetables, promote plant-based recipes and sell to buyers including Planted and Toast.

Spread across 10,235 residents, these five enterprises equal one plant-based business for every 2,047 residents. If we exclude small Maine towns with a single plant-based business, the only other town that comes close to this ratio is Freeport, with three vegan businesses per 8,784 residents, or one for every 2,928 residents. The rate in Portland is much lower with a ratio of 12:68,424, or one plant-based business for every 5,702 residents.

Obvious question: Why is Kittery so veg-friendly? The answer boils down to three things: its business climate; its educated, affluent residents; and its proximity to Portsmouth.

When Tamara Monroe, left, and Ryan MacDougall founded Lovebirds in 2019, they received some initial pushback, but now “people are excited about vegan doughnuts,” Monroe says. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

“Originally, we considered opening in Portsmouth,” said Tamara Monroe, who founded the busy Lovebirds with baker Ryan MacDougall in 2019. “We figured Portsmouth would be vegan friendly. But it was too cost-prohibitive, too restrictive. We couldn’t find the right real estate, and so we started exploring over the border in Kittery. It has some of the same demographics as Portsmouth, plus millions of tourists.”


Last year, Lovebirds opened a small shop in downtown Portsmouth, but kept production at its larger Kittery headquarters.

Lovebirds labels its doughnuts vegan, which caused some complaints when the shop first opened. “‘You’re tricking us,’ that sort of thing,” Monroe explained. But that push-back has melted away. “Now it’s awesome because the area has caught up a little bit and people are excited about vegan doughnuts,” she said.

Catrina Muolo, a Kittery resident who launched Planted in 2021, also searched in Portsmouth before landing in Kittery. “The reasonable rents and Kittery’s friendly attitude towards small businesses helps,” said Muolo, who also sells her products to the Kittery public schools, where they are used to make meals for vegan students.

Toast helps draw vegan and vegetarian tourists to Kittery. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

When Toast owner Nina Holland was getting ready to launch the shop in 2021, she already had some useful market data because she was running a preorder bakery for her bread.

“We drew a circumference of where my orders were coming from and did a pinpoint in the center and it landed in Kittery,” Holland said.

Holland thinks Kittery has changed since she lived in town 13 years ago; she now lives in North Berwick. “Since the pandemic, people are more open to plant-based eating and more willing to try than in the past.”


While eating plant-based meals is proven to be the most affordable way to eat, the cost rises when you dine out. Also, all the plant-based businesses in Kittery sell products made from more expensive, high-quality ingredients, which drives the price even higher.

“It’s really hard to create healthy options and entrees and sell them at a reasonable price,” said Alex Vandermark, who owned The Juicery in Portsmouth, then opened his Kittery juice bar in 2012. “You have to charge a premium for them. Not everyone recognizes the value in that, but in this area I think people recognize it a lot more and are willing to pay a premium for healthier options.”

Following their dream of working on the land, farmers Abraham Kann and Kate Ograbisz moved to Kittery from Haverhill, Massachusetts. The partners originally hoped to buy property, but it proved more feasible to lease. In 2021, they leased land from the Kittery Land Trust, and they founded T.H.E. Farm, which stands for To Heal Earth Farm.

“Our mission is to get people to eat more plants,” Ograbisz said. “We share lots of vegan recipes to show how to make plants delicious and how to nourish people.”

The farm uses no pesticides — neither organic nor synthetic — and does not till the soil. T.H.E. Farm would like to become a veganic operation, but the farmers have as yet been unable to find a commercial source of compost made without animal manures or residues. T.H.E. Farm sells its vegetables, herbs, microgreens and flowers at the Newburyport Farmers Market in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and wholesales them to the Roots Vegan Cafe & Juice Bar in Dover, New Hampshire, and the Golden Harvest Produce Market in Kittery.

The fact that I can calculate the statistical plant-based hotspot in Maine reflects a wider boom in vegetarian activity in the state. Up until 2019, I didn’t need a spreadsheet to track plant-based businesses in Maine, as I could hold all the information in my head. But starting in 2019, with a supercharge delivered by the pandemic, plant-based businesses have been opening in Maine at an unprecedented clip. They now number almost 60.


Kittery is at the leading edge of this boom.

“In this area there’s been a wave of progressive, plant-based and ethical vegan interest that we’ve all been riding,” Kann said.

Monroe believes Kittery’s concentration of plant-based businesses attract visitors. “When you create a critical mass of similar businesses, it draws people of similar lifestyles, it becomes a destination,” she said. “Now we have people who do these little pilgrimages to Lovebirds and then Toast and then a juice at The Juicery. It’s cool to see people make it a destination spot.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. Reach her at

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