Most of us, says Kelly Geary, harbor dreams of a community-supported agriculture lifestyle: we’ll join a CSA buying club, prepaying for a season of weekly harvest shares from a local farm, then regularly get home in time to slow braise a shoulder of pastured pork, simmer silky vegetable soups and roll dough for strawberry tarts. And come Sunday, we’ll pop fresh herb-speckled pot pies into the oven.
But then life happens, and those lovely bags of local sorrel in the fridge decompose into something dark and slimy.
So last spring the solution-minded Bushwick resident launched Sweet Deliverance, a meal delivery program designed to fill the gap between the agrarian ideal and the Brooklyn reality–the one where it’s 8 p.m. and you’re way past starved.
“They really wanted to eat from a CSA,” says Geary of her culinary-conscious clients, but most were new mothers who also held full-time jobs.
Those moms now let the 30-year-old Geary look after the sorrel. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Cookery School who often sports two blonde braids, she picks up her clients’ just-harvested farm shares of Garden of Eve Farm’s organic produce at the Williamsburg CSA drop spot on Saturdays, hauls the bounty to her commercial kitchen in Bed-Stuy and, by Monday night, cooks and then delivers each client’s share, now transformed into meals and snacks.
True, Geary’s prices may not fit every Brooklynite’s budget–her service currently ranges from $250 to $350 per week on top of the CSA fees, depending on time of year and whether you eat meat. But knowing where your food comes from and exactly how it’s made is worth the extra cost, says customer Mary Tyler Johnson.
“I can’t put a price on that,” she says.
And Geary is earning those fees. On Thursday she talks to the farmers to learn what’s ripe. Then she plans a week’s worth of recipes–including allergenic variations without gluten, dairy or dislikes–supplemented with great Greenmarket grub, cartfuls of Whole Foods staples like millet and olive oil, plus luscious local dairy from Saxelby Cheesemongers.
By Saturday afternoon, Geary, who worked for both Little Giant in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has settled into the warehouse kitchen she shares with a chocolate-maker to bake rhubarb muffins by the dozen, roast asparagus by the sheet pan, roll out buttery cheddar-chive biscuits, and portion braised chicken with orange-almond shortbread for dessert. She delivers the goods in compostable corn containers, reusable canning jars, and fabric cooler bags she either unpacks at delivery or swaps out the following week.
It’s hard work, admits Geary, who started with a whopping 14 clients last summer thanks to a pre-launch write-up in The New York Times. At first, she remembers, “I freaked out. I was working 20-hour, 18-hour days all weekend and collapsing on Monday.”
She’s now streamlined the process and added a hired hand, happy to run an innovative business that’s delighting clients and benefiting small farms, all in a long day’s work. “I didn’t actually think it was going to work out,” she laughs.
Luckily for those of us with CSA dreams and Brooklyn realities, it did.