We affirm that Black Lives Matter, and that we at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture here at the University of Vermont, are in positions of privilege afforded to us solely by the privilege of having white skin.
We acknowledge that we have failed to be effective voices and actors in the fight for anti-Black racism as we should have been all along.
We believe that we have perpetuated white supremacy and racism in the way that we do our work. And we do not think that a newsletter statement of intent and position is enough. It is past time for us to be intentional, active partners in supporting self-determination and resiliency for Black farmers and communities, as well as Indigenous farmers and communities, and other farmers and communities of color.
We know that as researchers, communicators and service providers in Vermont's farm and food system, we have an obligation and an opportunity to do better. We do not yet know all of what we need to know in order to do it right. We are starting with a careful analysis of our own research and our programs to develop data so we can be clear about who we are serving and how. And by joining with our colleagues in building our systems of accountability to true equity.
One small way we know that we can be of service is by "sharing the mic" - that is, lifting up the voices of those colleagues whose lives and work are too often relegated to the margins.
In that spirit, we have sought permission from the Clemmons Family Farm to share the story of their Black-owned farm. We regard the Clemmons family as brilliant and capable practitioners and scholars who are asking some of the most interesting and relevant questions of our time, and proposing solutions and practices for a thriving and equitable future.
About the Clemmons Family Farm
from Lydia Clemmons Jr.
Over the past 100 years, African-Americans nationwide have lost nearly 93% of their farmland assets –from approximately 44 million acres in the 1920s to just 3.5 million acres today. The dramatic and tragic loss of land are due to racism and systemic racial discrimination. Today, the Clemmons Family Farm is one of just 0.4% of the farms in the US that are African-American owned. According to the 2017 United States agriculture census, of the nearly 7000 farms in Vermont, only 17 are African-American-owned. Of the 1.2 million acres of farmland in Vermont, only 3,960 acres (0.33%) are owned or principally operated by African-Americans.
Although the farm has some of the best agricultural soils in Chittenden county and includes a 60-acre forest replete with wildlife and natural resources, shockingly, the farm remains unconserved in spite of the family's years of efforts to attain a conservation easement. The family has founded a 501c3 nonprofit organization- Clemmons Family Farm, Inc.- with a three-pronged mission:
- To preserve the 148-acre physical farm as a critical African-American owned land asset and cultural heritage resource;
- To empower a growing network of Vermont's Black artists and culture bearers with opportunities for professional development, advocacy, visibility, networking, paid engagements, collective healing, and a safe haven for creativity that help them to thrive;
- To build a loving multicultural community around African-American/African diaspora history, arts and culture.
This story was originally shared in the July 2020 Fresh from the Field newsletter.