A drive down 41st Lane in Pueblo looks exactly like farmland portrayed in movies: green fields, vast acreage and scattered barns. On that road, 3 Sisters Farm and Dairy might blend in with the rest of the view, but the mission behind this family business is to stand out and educate the public about the values behind all farming and agriculture.
The need for education comes as the number of small farms across the nation continues to decline, and there are fewer new farmers than ever before. The United States Department of Agriculture’s most recent farm demographics reported the total number of farms across the U.S. fell 4.3 percent between 2007 and 2012, a statistically significant change, according to the department.
Jennifer Dionisio, owner of 3 Sisters Farm and Dairy, hopes to educate the public and create a profitable business while simultaneously leaving a legacy and business opportunity for her three daughters — Erin, Regan and Ally -— for whom the farm is named.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t realize where their food comes from,” Dionisio said. “I wish that we would be more aware of … where [our] food comes from, the part a farmer has in [supplying] food and about supporting local farmers.”
Goat farming in particular is in Dionisio’s blood. She and her sister grew up in an agriculturally involved family, and they participated in 4-H for many years.
“My grandpa and his brothers, he had nine brothers and two sisters, and they raised a herd of goats [in Colorado] and sold their dairy [products] as far as New York,” she said.
The business side of 3 Sisters Farm and Dairy was established in 2016 and grew out of a hobby. Dionisio and her girls were raising goats for 4-H and using their milk to make cheese, soap, dry shampoo and other items when she decided it was time to establish a business.
“It’s an expensive hobby, and if you don’t figure out a way to help it pay for itself — that’s where a lot of people I think get frustrated with it. It’s a big task, having goats,” she said. “That’s a full-time job. You don’t get vacation days. You can’t stop milking your goats because you’re going on a vacation. It doesn’t work that way. You have to milk them twice a day. It’s a commitment.”
Dionisio offers hands-on tours to local schools to help educate children about where their food comes from and also offers classes like cheese-, jam- and jelly-making and even “goat yoga” to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the agricultural community.
The workforce behind 3 Sisters Farm and Dairy consists of just Dionisio and her girls, but within the next three to five years, the family hopes to build up their small-scale creamery and perhaps move it to a 700-acre property they own just 15 minutes away from the current location.
Dionisio said she envisions building a house on the property with a commercial kitchen, which could accommodate larger classes and a possible farm-to-table restaurant. She said she wants to ensure operations stay small and doesn’t plan to distribute her products to larger-scale stores. She said if or when her daughters take over one day, the business can be modified to suit their wishes.
“We hope to leave a legacy for the girls so they can be entrepreneurs and either branch off and do their own businesses or collaborate and work together,” Dionisio said. “They could almost each eventually build their own little businesses off 3 Sisters Farm and Dairy. It’s an open door for them later on in life if they want it. And if they don’t want it, I’m OK with that too. We’ll enjoy it while we can.”
Dionisio said while small farms struggle nationwide, she and others in the local agriculture community hope to see more local support.
“I think there’s a lot more we could be doing, if people would take notice, to help our community. Farming is such a gamble anyway — with weather and water and prices. It’s a commodity at the end of the day because you don’t know what you’re going to get for it,” Dionisio said. “For every farmer that drops out of farming, that’s food away from our tables. As Americans, I don’t think people are in touch with that, especially people who aren’t in an agriculture community. … I think we need to educate people.”