Maine is the national leader in seaweed farming, with over 1,000,000 pounds of kelp being harvested from sea farms in 2022. Maine’s annual Seaweed Week offers an opportunity for Mainers to sample kelp items from businesses across the state. Attendees can expect a variety of kelp items available for purchase including food, drinks, and crafts.
This event draws in many different types of vendors. One of the main appeals of this event is the restaurants that participate. At the time of writing, over 35 restaurants have signed up to showcase food items with locally grown seaweed. Many bars and breweries will also be in attendance, with the majority offering seaweed-based cocktails. Other specialty food businesses will have a large presence at Seaweed Week; bakers, chocolatiers, cheesemakers, and more will have limited-edition release items.
Seaweed Week will offer more than just a unique dining experience. The event schedule is filled with a variety of activities from educational to recreational. Some highlighted events include open-water rowing in Belfast, a collaboration with the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, and beach walks to workshop seaweed identification.
There is also an emphasis on being able to use seaweed in at-home kitchens. Eight farms will be selling their kelp goods so that people can bring home the versatility of seaweed. Not only will patrons be able to buy kelp from across the state, but Seaweed Week also boasts an online recipe book that spells out different ways to prepare and consume kelp.
Although Maine has a robust seaweed harvesting industry, it still remains one of the lesser-known ingredients in private and restaurant kitchens. Josh Rodgers, the owner of Heritage Seaweed in Portland, is also the founder of Seaweed Week. In an interview with News Center Maine, he says, “We have to do a lot of education. Chefs are busy, and seaweed is this thing where people aren’t sure how to use it or why to use it.”
Maine’s seaweed industry has been rapidly growing over the past few years. In 2017, Maine only produced 45,000 pounds of seaweed compared to over 1,000,000 pounds in 2022. In 2021, Maine was responsible for over 85 percent of cultivated seaweed in the United States.
Besides Seaweed Week, other local initiatives aim to bolster the Maine seaweed industry. FocusMaine is an organization that works to accelerate Maine’s food and biology economy. In September 2022, the first international seaweed conference hosted in the US was held in Portland, and FocusMaine published the Maine Seaweed Showcase to highlight seaweed aquaculture. The showcase highlighted the processes and final products of more than 35 farms and businesses. Information is also available about kelp farming research and its potential issues, such as ocean acidification.
~ Vivian Nguyen `25