One of the oldest African-American-owned Vt. farms looks to make - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

One of the oldest African-American-owned Vt. farms looks to make new history

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It's one of the oldest and largest African-American-owned farms in Vermont. Now, there are plans to turn the Clemmons family farm in Charlotte into a cultural and historical center.

When Lydia and Dr. Jack Clemmons came to Vermont in August 1962, they needed a place to call home. 

"When we first came to Vermont, we bought the place my husband had chosen, the farm. The people in Charlotte called it a white elephant because it was such a huge place," said Lydia Clemmons. 

It's a place no one really wanted. It was run-down.

"Everyone had a lot of work to do and didn't mind doing it," said Jack Clemmons. 

Jack Clemmons came to Vermont to become a professor of pathology at the University of Vermont. According to his daughter, Lydia, he was the second African-American doctor and professor at the medical center. The first one left the very day he arrived. In just a few years, the Clemmons transformed the property into a fully functional farm. They grew all their own food. 

"We were the farm hands. There were five of us. We hayed. We drove the tractors. We fed the chickens and the pigs and the cows and rode the horses. And this was one of my favorite places to be on the farm, was this big barn," said Lydia Clemmons. 

The elder Lydia Clemmons was a nurse anesthetist. Now, she and her husband are 93 years old. They thought about selling the property, but what would become of all this history? 

"The beautiful relationship we've had with this community, Charlotte, and with Vermont made me think that we have to hold on to it, not just for the family, not just for the community or for the state, but for the country," said Lydia Clemmons. 

They are now working to turn the 148 acres of land into an African-American heritage center with five historic buildings and it's being considered as an official stop on the state's African-American Heritage Trail.

"Vermont is rich with black history. It's often thought about in terms of what happened a century ago, two centuries ago, but this is living history," said Curtiss Reed, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity.

"I feel like the agriculture piece will really reach Midwesterners, people who might not have had an interest in the trail as it is today," said Megan Smith, Vermont Department of Tourism. 

Reporter Eva McKend: You have to recognize that this is an anomaly to be black farm owners in Vermont? 

Lydia: It was the most wonderful experience. Even today we wake up and say how were we so lucky to be in Vermont and I say it's our guardian angels that led us here. 

There is much more to this place, including a store that ran on the property for many years that sold authentic African products. The Clemmons family would travel to the continent and bring goods back to sell in Vermont. They are currently raising funds to turn the property into a historic site.

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