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Clemmons Family Farm ED Lydia Clemmons to Receive the 2021 Con Hogan Award

Lydia Clemmons Headshot

The Vermont Community Foundation and the organizing committee for the Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial Community Leadership are pleased to announce that Lydia Clemmons, PhD, MPH will be honored with this year’s award. Dr. Clemmons is President and Executive Director of the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte.

Established by a group of Con’s colleagues in 2015, the annual award recognizes his life work by honoring a community leader who shares his vision of a better Vermont and seizes the responsibility for making that vision a reality. The awardee shows deep community involvement, generosity, enthusiasm, a collaborative approach, and a focus on data and measurable outcomes in their work.

Dr. Clemmons and her four siblings grew up on the 148-acre Charlotte farm her parents purchased in 1962, after her father, a pathologist, started a job at the University of Vermont. Her mother joined the medical center as a nurse anesthetist. At the same time, the couple worked on the farm, instilling in their children a deep respect for farming and manual labor. As African Americans, they also wanted to create a haven for their children and other African Americans, many of whom were artists and scholars, in a predominantly white state. The farm welcomed members of the community as well, providing, from the 1960s through the 1980s, a dynamic showcase celebrating African American music and art.   

Dr. Clemmons left Vermont after high school to attend Stanford University in California. Initially she wanted to be a physician like her father. But after completing her pre-medical studies, she joined the Peace Corps and worked as a public health volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She fell in love with the Congolese people, cultures, and art and built a 35-year career in public health, living and working in more than 20 African countries. She returned to the U.S. to obtain new data and analysis tools to take back to her work abroad, and now holds a Master of Public Health in international health from the University of Michigan and a PhD in medical anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Clemmons returned to Vermont in 2013 to help her parents plan for the future of their farm, one of just 0.4 percent of U.S. farms that remain in Black hands. In 2017, under her leadership, the Clemmons Family Farm won the prestigious National Creative Placemaking Award from ArtPlace America. In 2019 it became a nonprofit organization. According to its website, “the Clemmons Family Farm mobilizes the power of African American and African diaspora history, art, culture, and people to build a loving and supportive multicultural community in Vermont—and to both conserve and preserve the physical farm as an African-American owned land and cultural heritage asset for future generations.”

Currently, the Clemmons Family Farm has two major programs. The “Windows to a Multicultural World” program brings African American and African diaspora history, art, and culture to Vermont’s K-12 students, parents, and teachers, with a focus on joy and resilience. The “Beneath Our Skin COVID-19 Storytelling Project,” funded by the Vermont Department of Health, collects stories and artwork by 100 Black Vermonters and 50 health care providers about their COVID-19 vaccination experiences. The Clemmons Family Farm will share some of the stories with the public and also provide the health department with findings and recommendations based on insights gained through the storytelling project, to improve the state’s vaccination services.

The Con Hogan Award selection committee chose Dr. Clemmons in large part because of her work, like that of her parents, to provide an empowering platform for Black artists and share Black culture and heritage with the Vermont community. Says Committee Chair Scott Johnson: “Clemmons has connected art and public health to improve people’s wellbeing throughout her career, and we are fortunate that she is bringing that vision and experience to her work in Vermont.”

The $15,000 award, to be used however the recipient chooses, will be presented at a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, October 6, at noon. Click here to register for the ceremony.

Members of the Con Hogan Award committee are Will Belongia, Paul Cillo, Steve Dale, Scott Johnson, Ellen Kahler, Jane Kimble, Dr. Etan Nasreddin-Longo, Jericho Parms, Arnold Isidore Thomas, and Diana Wahle. Visit the Con Hogan page to learn more about the award.