Runners line up ahead of the first 5K Run for the Animals, held last year at the Northeast Equine Sanctuary in Albion, which is owned and operated by Peace Ridge Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Peace Ridge Sanctuary

The recent growth of Maine’s plant-based industry is making fundraising easier for one nonprofit. When the Peace Ridge Sanctuary 5K Run for the Animals happens Oct. 14, followed by a vegan barbecue, the charity event for Maine’s largest farm animal rescue will, through its sponsors and donors, showcase Maine’s expanding plant-based industry. It will also highlight the burgeoning industry’s breadth.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve seen significant growth in the (vegan and vegetarian) movement, including a lot of new businesses popping up in Maine,” said Melissa Andrews, development director at Peace Ridge Sanctuary. “It’s been really exciting for us to see.”

Peace Ridge houses and rehabilitates more than 500 neglected and abused farm animals at its four shelters, which are licensed by the state of Maine and accredited through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. The main shelter is located in Brooks, with a nearby satellite farm that houses special needs animals and a full medical facility.

The newest shelter is an overflow shelter in Belfast that Peace Ridge leases from a supporter, and the fourth shelter, where the 5K takes place, is its Northeast Equine Sanctuary in Albion, which shelters horses.

I reached Andrews as she and the Peace Ridge team were in the midst of responding to a severe neglect case at a small Maine farm where the state seized more than 50 abused animals. Many of the rescued animals are pregnant and all are malnourished and in extremely poor health. Most of Peace Ridge’s rescues come from seizures by the state.

In addition to farm animals raised for food, Peace Ridge also rescues many dogs, cats, donkeys and horses. Peace Ridge administers a well-vetted adoption process for some of the dogs in its care ready for a family home, while the rest of the animals find their forever homes at the sanctuary.


The event’s volunteer organizer, Whitney Shea, moved to Scarborough with her family three years ago and has watched the growth of Maine’s plant-based industry since 2020.

“It’s extremely helpful to have so many amazing potential sponsors to be able to call upon for such a compassionate cause,” Shea said. “Through this event, we get a chance to help promote and showcase them and their efforts as growing vegan and vegetarian businesses.”

Following the 5K, all race participants will enjoy Freeport-based Veggie Life’s vegan barbecue featuring its quinoa burgers, jackfruit chili and pasta pesto salad. Photo courtesy of Veggie Life

One event sponsor is Freeport-based Veggie Life, which sells veggie burgers and vegan chili and will supply the after-race barbecue. The meal features Veggie Life’s quinoa burgers, jackfruit chili and a pasta salad with pesto. Veggie Life owner Jaime Shaw volunteers at Peace Ridge most Mondays, saying, “It’s pretty much my favorite day of the week. It refuels me and gets me through the rest of the week.”

Shaw is encouraged by the amount of support the event has attracted and says Maine’s plant-based businesses constitute a supportive community. “We’re all on the same team,” Shaw said. “There’s camaraderie, and it’s neat to see. We all want to collaborate. We want to help other vegan businesses.”

The race course takes runners and walkers along a trail brilliant with fall foliage winding through woods and fields, over a stone bridge and around each of the pastures where horses graze. Before the race, participants can take part in a guided outdoor yoga and stretching session. The barbecue will be hot and ready for the runners and walkers when they return.

Last year, the race attracted competitive runners, recreational runners and walkers. Organizer Shea anticipates this year’s event will draw up to 120 people.


Another sponsor for the 5K is vegan macaroon maker Al’s Green Kitchen Macs, which Alyson Saucier owns in Fort Kent.

“I live all the way at the top of Maine, and we don’t have access to the amazing vegan choices like you do in your area,” Saucier told me by phone from her hometown that (so far) lacks other vegan and vegetarian businesses. Yet, she said lately she’s meeting more local vegans and seeing more non-vegans eating vegan food. “Veganism is growing,” Saucier said. “People are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and trying to eat less meat and dairy.”

Being so far from a visible veg community, Saucier was advised by some people before launching her businesses to leave the word “vegan” off her packaging because some non-vegans get scared by the V-word. “I said, ‘then those aren’t my people,’” recalled Saucier, who proudly displays the words “100% Vegan” on her labels.

Saucier’s people – from around the corner in Fort Kent to across the country in California – have since discovered Al’s Green Kitchen Macs (which ships its macaroons nationally, but sells 50 percent of its products in the local community). Buoyed by the warm reception from her like-minded customers, Saucier, a registered nurse who adopted veganism for her health but soon became deeply concerned about farm animals, said “knowing the Peace Ridge animals have been saved from horrible situations, I want to help.”

Other sponsors and donors include Lovebirds in Kittery, Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck in Portland, Vickie’s Veggie Table in Biddeford, Curbside Comforts in Gorham, Lorriane’s Cakes in Standish, Salt + Pepper Social in Newcastle, and Tootie’s Tempeh in Biddeford.

Sarah Speare, the co-founder and CEO of Tootie’s, sponsored the 5K “because one of our core values is to support the well-being of animals.” A longtime vegan and Maine resident, Speare has also witnessed the recent growth of the state’s plant-based industry.


“It’s wonderful to have so many vegan food producers at the event, most of whom we know and love and many that we collaborate with,” Speare said. “It is especially heartening to see the addition of non-food businesses becoming sponsors of vegan events.”

These businesses represent the expanding breadth of Maine’s plant-based industry, where vegan and vegetarian owners of non-food enterprises feel naturally aligned with veg food businesses. Peace Ridge Sanctuary itself is an example of a non-food organization allied with plant-based restaurants and bakeries.

The 5K’s top sponsor, Sakara Creative, is another example. The architecture firm based in Readfield is run by vegan Arielle Cousens and partner Ben Stoodley. Last year, Cousens organized community opposition to a pig scramble held during Readfield Heritage Days, causing the event to be canceled going forward. In an odd twist of fate, one of the pig scramble promoters later hired Sakara Creative to draw a house rendering, and Cousens donated all the proceeds from the job to the Peace Ridge 5K.

Cousens, a lifelong vegetarian who grew up in Maine, said, “people want to make the right choices,” but she feels they need to witness more examples of people opting out of animal cruelty. “Let’s promote doing the right thing and more people will get on board,” said Cousens.

Other non-food, plant-based businesses sponsoring and donating to the Peace Ridge 5K include Urban & Rural Real Estate of Portland and Richmond, the all-vegan Organic Roots salon and spa in South Portland, the nonprofit advocacy organization Maine Animal Coalition of Portland (which hosts the state’s annual Veg Fest), vegan soap maker White Pine Bath & Brew of South Portland, Peppe’s Hand-Painted Pet Portraits of Rockland, fitness studio Hustle & Flow of Portland, and Scarborough-based online card, wall art and T-shirt designer Scribbles and Doodlez.

Tempeh maker Speare finds non-food businesses aligned with the vegan and vegetarian movement to be a significant development, saying, “It means that vegans are in decision-making and influencing positions and can use their businesses to educate and advocate for the animals who otherwise have no voice.”

Those sponsoring and donating to this year’s Run for the Animals are elevating those voices of the voiceless and nudging other Mainers toward compassion. They also demonstrate the growing strength of Maine’s plant-based industry.

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

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