The Conscious Farm Kitchen: Our Journey so Far…

The Conscious Farm Kitchen: Our Journey so Far…

As we hit our fifth anniversary milestone (how has it been five years, right?!), we’ve decided to take a deep breath and look back at the whirlwind adventure that brought us here. From our roots in a humble farm kitchen and blossoming into Guelph’s go-to for zero-waste meal deliveries to the largest 100% organic meal delivery service in Ontario, our story is a patchwork quilt of moments, big and small, that have shaped who we are today.

2019: The Beginning: where it all started

Picture this: Celeste Lopreiato, our fearless founder, was dreaming of a world where sustainable living and delicious meals go hand in hand. That's where it all began in 2019, under the name ‘The Conscious Grocer’. Back then, we were pioneering Guelph's zero-waste, vegan scene offering a selection of vegan grocery items from house-made vegan milks, yogurt, cheese, tofu, and tempeh to breads, beans, lentils, and nuts along with a selection of prepared meals each week – a few things have changed since then.

But let's rewind to how it all started. From cool kid to business owner, Celeste's story is as inspiring as it is heartfelt. Becoming a vegan early in life, Celeste was always super interested in sustainable living, which piqued her interest in sustainable and organic farming and a lifestyle rooted in harmony with nature.

In 2019, she saw a golden opportunity. There was a huge gap in our local community for zero-waste, sustainable food deliveries. Celeste knew she could make a difference! Driven by a passion for sustainable living and healthy, plant-based foods, Celeste launched the business from a tiny rented kitchen. Celeste’s mission was clear: provide delicious, zero-waste meal options that promote a healthier planet and community. Think local, organic ingredients wrapped in reusable or compostable packaging, every detail meticulously planned to minimize environmental impact - some things never change!

In her own words: "I’m Celeste, owner of The Conscious Kitchen and the main set of hands cooking your food every week. I started the business back in 2019, at the age of only 22, after finishing university and working endless part-time jobs. I wanted to do something more fulfilling that connected to my passions & values, and voila The Conscious Kitchen was born! I care deeply about protecting our environment, animals, and ethical sourcing- three of the guiding principles for our food. I’m so lucky to have been able to start this business as a BIPOC & Queer women, and love connecting & supporting other womxn-owned businesses!”

Celeste's vision? Simple. Source local, organic goodness and serve it up with a side of compassion. And so, The Conscious Farm Kitchen was born, a testament to her dedication to the environment, ethical sourcing, and inclusivity.

2020: Changes & Challenges: We hit some speed bumps along the way

Ah, 2020—a year that tested us all. COVID-19 threw us a little bit of a curveball, but we were determined to push through. We doubled down on our commitment to community. With folks stuck at home and hungering for healthy eats, we stepped up to the plate (excuse the shameless pun).

From shifting our services to meet the moment to extending a helping hand to those in need, we rolled with it. Celeste worked tirelessly, putting in multiple 12-14 hour days to help as many people as possible, driven not by profit but by a genuine desire to support the community and ensure no belly went unfed. We started offering our services to anyone in Guelph, using lower-quality (but still reusable) containers to meet the immediate needs.

We delivered food right to people’s doorsteps every week. Prices were adjusted for those who had lost income, and we encouraged those who could pay full price to do so, given our high ingredient costs. 

Was it a year of challenges? Yes. But was it also a year of resilience and growth that connected us further to our community? Absolutely!

April 2020, we rebranded from The Conscious Grocer to The Conscious Kitchen, a name that better reflected our expanded offerings and future goals. We also launched a brand-new website featuring more prepared meals and a variety of grocery items. By August 2020, we had moved operations to a farm Celeste and her partner Simone had bought and started growing our customer base significantly. The new space allowed us to broaden our delivery areas to include Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Elora, and Fergus, bringing fresh, local, and tasty food to even more communities.

2021: Expansion: We hired staff and reached even more communities

By 2021, we’d developed our service even further and now offered a weekly changing menu of farm-fresh prepared meals – very much like we offer to this day.  Driven by growing demand in the region and the need to reach a larger customer base, we expanded our service to Collingwood, Kimberly, and Markdale. We also introduced catering and holiday menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas and continued to improve our weekly meal offerings.

As our community grew, so did our team. By 2021, we expanded our team and welcomed fresh faces to the kitchen. 

We became a certified ‘living wage’ employer. In fact, we exceeded the living wage and still do to this day. Having grown up in a low-income household that lived paycheck to paycheck, from day one Celeste was passionate about ensuring The Conscious Farm Kitchen paid both herself and all employees at LEAST the living wage. In her words “In my mind, there was no point in spending all my savings, working long hours, and using a lot of energy to start a business that did not provide me with enough income to have a happy and comfortable life.”.

2022: Engagement & Awards: We got engaged, but we still stayed engaged to our community

By 2022, we’d firmly established ourselves as a key player in the local food industry. Only 3 years after launching, Celeste had grown The Conscious Farm Kitchen to almost a half-million-dollar business thanks to support from our customers and staff. However large the business grew to be, Celeste was still dedicated to keeping our business local, small, personal, and as affordable as possible. Celeste was still cooking almost everything that is sent out to customers with the help of our ever-growing team – and this hasn’t changed even to this day. Most days you’ll still find Celeste cooking up a storm in our kitchen, or you might even see her face pop up during your delivery!

2022 also so saw Celeste receiving accolades for her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to sustainability – no surprises there! Using the knowledge and experience from building The Conscious Farm Kitchen from the group up (literally, we built an entire kitchen), Celeste started to do some coaching along with her partner, Simone through organizations such as Fair Finance Fund, Catapult Grey Bruce and Slow Growing Business Coaching working with other womxn-entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground. At only 25 Celeste had not only founded an amazing business, but it was also a success!

And amidst all the hustle and bustle, love found its way into the mix - our favourite lesbian couple got engaged!

2023: Business growth: Literally, we built a new kitchen

Innovation was the name of the game in 2023. From revamping our website to building a brand-new kitchen (literally!), we worked tirelessly to improve your experience with us. 

Whilst we were physically renovating the kitchen at our farm (and Celeste and Simone’s home), we were also virtually building a new website and order process. Construction started on the kitchen at the end of 2022, this new kitchen was purpose built and designed to allow us to continue to create the same delicious and nutritious meals, only on a larger scale and with the space to grow even further. By mid-year we were in our new kitchen, and we were loving it – in fact, we still do! The new space has allowed us to innovate the way we prepare meals, reduced some of our meal prep costs, and allowed us to create more dishes to feed you wonderful lot! 

We also knew that our website needed some improvements too, as a small business we don’t have a tech team or any tech support, so we’ve just been figuring it out as so go; however, as our customer base grew we knew we needed to update our website and some of our order processes to reduce the manual workload required to process orders. Celeste worked with lifelong friend, Richard to bring her website dreams to life. The new website was designed to simplify the order process for customers so you could order the meals you want with ease! 

Celeste was still busy managing our kitchen, our deliveries, our website, our social media channels, and everything else that comes with owning a small business with limited staff and resources. Our first staff member that wasn’t part of the kitchen team was hired, we hired a Marketing Manager to help continue to grow and improve our business. 

2024: Cheers to Five Years!

And here we are, toasting to half a decade of conscious cooking and community love. From our farm to your table, thank you for being a part of our journey. Here's to many more years of delicious meals, sustainable living, and shared memories. 

Stay tuned, folks. The best is yet to come (we hope)!

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