Jennifer Rodriguez of Triple J Pastures in Irasburg has won the 2022 Eric Rozendaal Award
After working in the restaurant industry in the Boston area for years, Jennifer Rodriguez and her spouse John Belanger moved to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and started Triple J Pastures in 2018. They produce eggs, whole chickens and turkeys, pork, lamb, beef, and seasonal vegetables.
In 2022, they sold food at the Waitsfield and Stowe farmers’ markets. They also sell online and from a farmstand, both of which they set up during the pandemic. They plan to add farm-made salsa, marinara sauce, crushed tomatoes, and maple blueberry jam.
Jennifer received the $5,000 award at our annual member meeting in Waitsfield on September 13, 2022.
“I am extremely excited to have been selected for this award,” she said. “I think small-scale, local agriculture is the future for Vermont, and this award shows that we’re on the right track. The recognition gives us something to aspire to, to keep innovating and keep investing in what we do.”
Jennifer plans to use the award to invest in energy-efficient refrigeration at their farmstand, and to subsidize the cost of their products for their local neighbors.
“The prices we charge to try and cover our expenses are affordable in Stowe and other parts of the state, but not in the Northeast Kingdom where poverty rates are higher,” she explained. “We would like our local community to reap the health and environmental benefits of having access to locally raised meat, vegetables and eggs at a price they can afford.”
Farming with nature
Jennifer and John farm with a focus on building soil health and preventing erosion. They use heavy machinery as little as possible and have fenced off their pond and wetland.
“Our livestock selection mimics or works with nature,” Jennifer explained. “For example, we’ll put cows in a section of pasture to eat tall grass. Poultry will go in after to aerate soil, mix in cow manure, and consume bugs and parasites that may be in the pasture.”
In addition to being a first-generation farmer, Jennifer is a first-generation American with a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father. She’s a member of the Vermont Releaf Collective, a network created by and for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to advance racial equity in land, agriculture, and foodways.
“In my experience, starting a farm is very difficult,” Jennifer said. “My husband is white and I think if not for him, it would have been nearly impossible for me to access the capital and land needed to start up our farm.”
“The best way to support the BIPOC farming community is by buying our products,” she added, “especially direct purchases on the farm or at farmers markets.”
“We are so delighted to honor Jennifer with this award,” said Nick Richardson, VLT President & CEO. “It’s no easy task moving to Vermont, starting up a farm, overcoming barriers, and finding success. We are lucky to have Jennifer as part of our Vermont farming community.”
Honoring a legacy
The Eric Rozendaal Memorial Award is given annually to a farmer who honors the legacy of Eric Rozendaal — a thoughtful, creative, and entrepreneurial farmer. The award fund was created through contributions from Eric’s family and friends and is managed by the Vermont Land Trust.
“His story is very inspiring to us,” said Jennifer. “It reflects the business model we are trying to build of working directly with restaurants and chefs in addition to building relationships with our consumers. We have customers who feel like extended family. So much of his legacy aligns with our values.”
Photo courtesy of Triple J Pastures