On Tuesday afternoon, March 15, President Joe Biden signed the $1.5 trillion 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which funds the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year.
In large part due to the efforts of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Vermont will get more than $167 million in funding for specific Vermont projects across the state.
One of those Vermont projects is the nonprofit Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte which will get $500,000 in funding.
“I made sure that Vermonters have had a center seat at the table in writing this bill. From providing resources to grow ‘made in Vermont’ ideas like the farm to school program, to supporting our rural village and downtown spaces, and everything in between, this bill reflects Vermont priorities and ideas and values,” Leahy said.
The Clemmons Family Farm, Inc., a leading Black-led nonprofit organization in Vermont, will receive the funding as a historical preservation grant to improve arts and culture facilities on the farm, which is owned by 98-year-old Jackson and Lydia Clemmons. The farm and three of its historic buildings are under the stewardship of the nonprofit through a 20-year renewable lease, according to a press release.
Leahy worked to restore the practice of Congressionally Directed Spending, after more than a decade, allowing members of Congress, and not just unelected federal agency officials, to have a direct say in how taxpayer dollars are spent in their communities.
At the Clemmons Family Farm, the Congressionally Directed Spending funds will support major work on the late 1700s Big Barn (a late 1700s dairy and hay barn) and some renovations to its Authentica Art Gallery building.
The two historic buildings will be dedicated to artist studios, art galleries and exhibits, artist residencies, visual and performing arts, humanities, and educational programs for the public. All of the programs promote learning, dialogue and appreciation around African-American history, art and culture, and foster multicultural community-building.
The grant will also support the return of award-winning architect Zena Howard to the farm. Howard served as senior project manager for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and is a principal and managing director of Perkins + Will architecture firm in North Carolina.
In 2018, Howard led a three-day design workshop at the Clemmons farm to envision the future and interior design of the Big Barn as a visual and performing arts center. She will continue to provide technical assistance to plan the interior design of the Big Barn over a series of site visits and workshops with Vermont’s artists, architects and barn preservation experts.
“The Clemmons Family Farm Board of Directors was over the moon when we received the news of the grant,” said Clemmons Family Farm board member Leslie McCrorey Wells. “In these challenging times, this magnificent, meaningful and uniquely-held property has the power to transcend our differences and bring Vermonters together. This grant also supports Clemmons Family Farm’s work to preserve the farm, empower Vermont’s Black artists and contribute creatively to our community as a whole.”
Karen Mittelman, Vermont Arts Council’s executive director, said, “The Big Barn is one of Vermont’s cultural treasures, and a touchstone in the complex and troubled history of African American land ownership in our nation.”
Also included in the funding Leahy secured for Vermont was $5 million for Shelburne Farms to establish a National Farm To School Institute providing technical and practical assistance to farm to school programs in the state and around the country.
The Clemmons Family Farm supports a network of approximately 250 Vermont artists of African descent. The nonprofit’s mission is based on the 60-year-old legacy of Jack and Lydia Clemmons of building community in Vermont around African-American and African diaspora arts and culture. The farm is one of the 0.4 percent of farms in the nation that is Black-owned and is a state landmark on the Vermont African-American Heritage Trail.
For more information about Clemmons Family Farm, visit clemmonsfamilyfarm.org.