RIPTON, VT—The Vermont Land Trust recognized Corie Pierce, owner and operator of Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne and South Burlington, as winner of the Eric Rozendaal Memorial Award on Sunday, October 6, at its Annual Meeting and Celebration.
The Rozendaal Award honors the legacy of Eric Rozendaal —a thoughtful, creative, and entrepreneurial farmer who passed away in 2018. Vermont farmers had a three-month period to apply for the $5,000 award and explain how they exemplify Rozendaal’s values of land stewardship, giving back and entrepreneurial farming.
The Selection Committee was impressed by Pierce’s work to support ecosystem health on her 143-acre property, her partnerships and breadth of community engagement, as well as her entrepreneurial approach, said VLT Chief of Staff Michelle Connor.
“I’m honored to have been selected and grateful,” said Pierce.
Pierce has more than 20 years of farming experience. She started farming in Exeter, New Hampshire when she was 14 and worked there for seven years. Not only did she love being outdoors and the connection to food, she also loved being part of a team where everyone’s contributions were valued.
Pierce’s farming career came to rise as the local food movement gained speed. She decided to settle in Vermont—a familiar place where both her maternal and paternal grandparents lived, but also a place where she felt more momentum behind the local food movement.
“[Vermont] has always felt a little more connected to those things… love of the land, outdoors, respect for the natural world. I felt all those things here,” Pierce said.
In 2009, Pierce and her former business partner Adam Wilson launched Bread & Butter Farm, buying the conserved land from Vermont Land Trust through its Farmland Access Program. This conservation program helps beginning farmers gain access to productive, affordable farmland. The property was formerly the Leduc Farm.
Bread & Butter Farm produces grass-fed beef, pasture pork, eggs and certified organic vegetables, and is known for hosting a popular “Burger Night.” Pierce says her farming practices mimic nature to create regenerative farmland. “Nature is actually pretty good at being productive. That’s our goal—not fighting against the natural world but learning from it,” she said.
Following Rozendaal’s passing in 2018, the Eric Rozendaal Memorial Fund was created through contributions from his family and friends. VLT manages the fund, which provides an annual award to a farmer who honors Rozendaal’s legacy. This is the first Rozendaal Memorial Award; nine more will be given out annually.
Pierce recalls meeting Eric Rozendaal for the first time at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. “Every day, I was right next to him. I bought his eggs,” said Pierce. “[Eric] was obviously a good farmer, but also an innovator. He got people really excited about small farms and supporting small farms.”
It was Rozendaal’s ingenuity that inspired Bread & Butter Farm’s burger nights, said Pierce. The weekly farm-to-plate family event celebrates community, land and food; there’s also live music and activities.
Rozendaal was a pioneer of Vermont’s farm-to-plate movement; one of the first farmers to sell directly to restaurants, stores and hospitals; and an early advocate of greenhouse growing. He also believed in good land stewardship and personal relationships. He improved the soil on his farm, built enduring connections with customers and farm laborers, and was known for sharing his knowledge with others.
Vermont farmers are invited to apply for next year’s Rozendaal Memorial Award beginning January 1, 2020. The application period will close on June 30, 2020. Visit vlt.org/eric for more information.