Three Sisters Kitchen is a non-profit community food space in the heart of downtown Albuquerque. The name “three sisters” comes from the Native American technique of growing 3 vegetables: corn, beans and squash, together. These companion plants complement each other nutritionally and in the garden. “They help each other grow stronger,” says Anzia Bennett founder and executive director of Three Sisters Kitchen, “It’s a metaphor to guide our programming…everyone has something to offer. “Three Sisters is a place where delicious, affordable, and locally produced foods come together to nourish our community from the ground up.”
The Three Sisters Kitchen motto is to use the power and love of local food to create economic opportunity, improve community health and bring our diverse communities together around the table. The kitchen accomplishes these goals through several specialized programs.
The idea of the kitchen started in 2015 when vendors and growers at the Albuquerque Farmers Market began to ask what they could do to generate revenue year-round without a winter’s market. They realized produce like tomatoes could be turned into salsa, creating a longer shelf life and a new source of profit for growers. The kitchen’s original indoor growers markets helped local farmers sell their products in the winter months. In 2018, Three Sister’s Kitchen was created to meet the needs of local producers and develop markets for their food. Bennett says the kitchen is “a place to learn, explore and experiment, a place to figure things out and figure out what is viable.”
The kitchen’s food business training program helps aspiring local food producers launch their food businesses. They help food entrepreneurs hone skills like proper food safety and experimenting with various techniques before putting their own money on the line. The goal for students is to start a product line that could end up on grocery store shelves. Every product from the line is required to include at least one local ingredient. The cost of the program is $200 for 15 weeks of training. The fee is relatively inexpensive thanks to grant funding and individual donors. Graduates of the program get one year of free commercial kitchen access at Three Sisters and technical support. Businesses like Fiesta Food on Wheels and Soma Ayurvedika continue to thrive as they use Three Sisters’ kitchen to produce popular products like their blue corn cookies, spice mixes and salsa.
Three Sisters Kitchen has its very own food line known as TSK: Food Group. The product line was developed to stay afloat during the pandemic. The food line generates revenue and serves as a learning model for trainees. The locally produced granola and spice shakes are sold at growers markets, at local retailers and online at threesisterskitchen.org
The kitchen also runs a small local food shop and café. Everything in the shop is New Mexico grown or New Mexican made, helping boost profits for local growers and producers.
Three Sisters Kitchen gives back to the community in a big way through their Refresh Health Foods Access Program. Local families in need are given vouchers to shop for local produce for their families.
“We partnered with MoGro Mobile Grocery and they took on the huge task of preparing food bags and food delivery,” says Bennett. An average of 130 to 200 families are given healthy, locally grown foods every two weeks through the program. “We know the need exceeds our capacity, but it felt good to get our food out to that many people,” says Bennett. Families in the Refresh program also receive a newsletter that teaches them ways to grow their own foods and feel more confident in the kitchen. Generous donors have helped keep the program afloat throughout the pandemic. Bennett is grateful for her team and for the organization's donors. “We have an incredible team at the kitchen. People who love this work are passionate about this work and are deeply committed to community health and that keeps me energized and hopeful.”
The kitchen also runs a small local food shop and café. Everything in the shop is New Mexico grown or New Mexican made helping boost profits for local growers and producers.
Due to the pandemic, the café now focuses solely on catering to get as many local ingredients on people’s plates as possible. The local food shop continues to sell online now to keep profitable. “Our partners reached out, banded together and thought creatively about how to get through this together. All we have is each other and we have to make it through together.”
Visit Three Sister Kitchen on Facebook or threesisterskitchen.org and click on the “support us” page to donate.