A consumer survey confirms that Mainers are going out of their way to buy more local produce and seafood. The survey was conducted by researchers at Maine Food Strategy, a sustainability initiative at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School.
More than a third of people surveyed said they purchased up to a quarter of their food from local sources. Ninety percent said that freshness, flavor, and nutrition were their main reasons for seeking out locally raised food, rather than foods that had to travel long distances.
But Tim Waring, a University of Maine at Orono researcher who worked on the survey, says better quality isn't the only driver.
"They're also eager to do it to support local farmers, so people are doing it out of some sense of commitment to the people who are raising the food," Waring says.
The top reasons people didn't buy something locally were lack of access and lack of convenience. Waring says, while all the data point to a recent shift in culture, there are challenges that need to be overcome. For example, the cost of buying and running a farm is still prohibitively high for many, with many farmers deeply in debt.
"It's not clear that we are going to be able to maintain this momentum unless we think of clever ways to make it possible for these small local farmers to make ends meet," he says.
Waring says Food Strategy members are planning a series of meetings with community leaders to review the survey findings and seek ways to strengthen stakeholder relationships.