Though CSAs have become a big component of the farm-to-table movement over the past 25-30 years, it's still a new concept for many people.  If you haven't gone through the experience before, it can be a confusing arrangement surrounded by lots of questions.  These are the most common questions and concerns that new members have.

1) I don't think I can eat everything in my share and I hate wasting food.
This is a common issue that people have with joining a CSA and it can be quite a constraint.  Indeed, our shares are only one size while everyone's eating habits are obviously quite different. (check out what last year's shares looked like here) It's unfair to assume that just because each CSA member is getting the same ingredients each week that their diets are the same.  However, there are some shared similarities between CSA members who have no problem enjoying all of their vegetables each week.  Some like to dive right in and use as many vegetables as they can for the two days after pickup and then slowly incorporate anything that remains into their meals for the rest of the week.  Some like to use whatever takes up the most space in the refrigerator for dinner after immediately after they pickup so that their fridge doesn't seem visually overwhelming.  Some simply make two or three veggie-centric dinners through the week and that takes care of the bulk.  Others like to make vegetable-based side dishes through the week to portion out their share evenly.  Then there's the common method of cutting up each vegetable once you get home after pickup and storing it that way so that it's quick and easy to incorporate to any meal.  This year we'll be asking interested CSA members to share in our weekly newsletter some of their methods and recipes that help them make the most of their share to help keep you inspired.

Still not convinced you can take on that many vegetables?  There is likely someone else saying the same thing right now.  Maybe splitting a share with another party is an option.  Send me an email (orangecirclefarm@gmail.com) and I can put you in contact with others who are interested in a splitting arrangement.

2) I eat more vegetables than are in a weekly share.  What's the point in adding another errand to my busy schedule if it doesn't completely eliminate my regular grocery trip? 
In an age of convenience, this is a very obvious question.  It's easy to romanticize the idea that joining the CSA will mean that you'll have farm fresh, local food for every meal or at least most of them.  A CSA share isn't meant to supply all of your food for the week.  Probably not even all of your vegetables.  That's not our goal at this point.  Our goal is to provide with the highest quality of vegetables that you can't get at the grocery store.  Our multi-year CSA members think that the difference in quality is worth the extra errand.

If you know you'll use more vegetables than the ones you get in your share each week, you can order more and pick them up at the same time as your share.  Our website will have an online form posted at the beginning of each week.  It's super easy to use and can ensure that you get all your veggies for the week in stop.  Unfortunately, this option will not be available for the Friday pickup at Maine Meat. 

3) I'm not a good cook?
You're not alone if you don't feel like a pro in the kitchen.  Most people I know don't.  Since I started farming, one of the most important things I've learned about cooking is that if you start with high quality ingredients, good meals usually follow.  We'll also provide support through season through several different streams.  We've assembled a farm recipe book full of dishes using the specific vegetables we grow.  This file will be given out digitally during the first week of pickups.  You can then print out pages as you need or use your tablet.  This book also contains proper storage information along with basic small-scale preservation ideas.  In addition to this book, you'll have access to our ever-growing Pinterest page organized by individual vegetables.  Through this page, you can view a broad range of ideas at a glance and then click the individual links to get the detailed recipe.  We'll highlight some seasonally-relevant recipes in the weekly newsletters so that you don't forget about this resource.

There's also about 60 other CSA members who will be getting the same ingredients in their kitchen each week.  Wouldn't you like to know what other people are doing with their share?  This year, we'll be asking willing volunteers to share their kitchen experiences through their recipes or methods that will go out in the weekly newsletters. 

Cooking is an important part of every CSA.  Through the season, we'll provide the support and inspiration you need to turn your raw ingredients into delicious meals!

4)I won't be around every week of the summer because I have a life.  Also I probably won't be able to make the pickup times each week.
It's summer, the kids are out of school and it's time to vacation.  I get it.  Most people aren't around for each of the 20 pickups through the season.  If you're going to be out of town for a week or two, chances are you know someone who would love to inherit your share while you're away.  It's easy to take a bin of fresh vegetables for granted after you get used to it on a weekly basis, but you should never underestimate what a great gift this can be to a friend or co-worker or family member.  If you're going to definitely be missing more than 2-3 weeks, perhaps the CSA isn't the best value for you.  Limited shares will be available for weekly purchase online through the season and may be a better choice.

If your schedule tends to be irregular and you're not sure that you'll be able to pick up within the specified times each week, it's great to have a backup plan in place.  This is one scenario where it's really beneficial to get other people in your network to also join the CSA.  That way it's super convenient to get them to pickup your share while they're getting theirs.  A surprising amount of people take advantage of this strategy: neighbors, siblings, co-workers.  It provides a great opportunity to feel the support of your own community who is more than happy to help.

5) I hate radishes...like really hate radishes.
I like all of the vegetables grown on the farm.  However, most members have 1-2 things that they really don't like.  We're very aware of how polarizing certain items are and we do aim to limit the number of times those are offered: radishes, fennel, eggplant, cilantro, etc.  We also offer an exchange bin at the Tuesday and Thursday pickups.  This allows you to fine tune your share by trading in items that you know you won't eat and pick up something more appealing instead.  We just started doing this last year and many members found it to be a very useful tool.

6) I like going to farmers' markets so I can support other farms too.
Many locavores started supporting local agriculture through farmers' markets where it's easy to get two or three items from several vendors.  It can be a fun process and a chance to become familiar with several farms.  Committing to a CSA is a different experience that supports a single farm.  This doesn't mean that you can't go to markets anymore.  It's a great way to supplement your share with other local foods like meat, eggs, honey, syrup and more.

7) I don't like being surprised each week with the vegetables I receive.  I plan out my weekly recipes in advance and surprises don't fit in.
There's a bit of a paradox with the CSA structure.  We try to diversify our offerings each week so you don't get bored with your share.  Many members consider opening their bin each week to be a bit like opening a present (some still refer to me as Veggie Claus).  However, some may find this pattern a little too disruptive to the rhythm they prefer when planning their meals.  The contents of the share each week are not usually known till the last minute.  This ensures that we're harvesting everything when it's just right, not too early, not too late.  This year we'll be sending out a Facebook/Instagram post of the contents as soon as they're confirmed.  This likely won't be until the early afternoon on the day of pickup, but that's our best method at this point.

After a few weeks, you'll likely notice some patterns to how the shares are assembled which may demystify them a bit.  Each week, we aim to include at least 1-2 root crops, 1 salad green (salad mix/head lettuce), 1 bunching green (kale, chard), 1-2 alliums (onion, scallion, garlic) and several fruiting crops as soon as they're available (tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pepper, etc.).

Whether you like surprises or not, we think the CSA can easily fit into your meal planning preferences.

8) I don't have to time to deal with learning about new vegetables every week.
We aim to include about 40 different kinds of vegetables in your share through the season.  Most of you don't regularly include that many different vegetables in your diet in any given year so you're likely to see some things that you're not comfortable with working with in the kitchen.  A lot of members really appreciate the opportunity to try new things while others prefer to stick with more standard ingredients.  While most of our weekly offerings tend to be on the popular side (carrots, salad greens, onions, tomatoes), we do like to include some lesser known items (bok choi, kohlrabi, radicchio, celtuce).  However, we aim to include no more than one of these items per week so that they don't become too overwhelming.  And if it's not a good week for something new, you can take advantage of the exchange bin (available for Tuesday and Thursday pickups only) to swap it out for something more familiar.

9) It's too expensive.
These vegetables are more expensive than the ones at the grocery store.  It's true.  There's many reasons for this and you've probably heard most of them before.  We believe that the difference in quality and freshness of our vegetables is simply worth it.  

That being said, the CSA is the cheapest way to access these high quality vegetables.  The average weekly value is only $27.50.  How much was the your last meal you went out for?  The rates that our CSA prices are calculated is usually lower than the prices you would see at a farmers' market.  We also aim to provide you with more vegetables through the season to account for the reward associated with the risk you take by pre-paying for your vegetables.  We obviously can't guarantee that reward but we have been able to provide that for our first three seasons.

We do offer the option to pay half the cost now and half the cost on the summer solstice (June 21).  If you do need a slightly different payment schedule to make this work for you, please contact me and we can work out another option.

10) I don't have time to work on the farm.
While it used to be common for CSA members to also have to spend some hours on the farm working through the season, this isn't a requirement for our CSA.  Though you are welcome to visit the farm to walk the fields and see where your food is coming from.  Members picking up on Tuesdays at the farm find this especially convenient.