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Clem Clay: Administrator by Day, Farmer at Heart

Clem Clay brings his love for agriculture and decades of experience to his current position as Director for the UMass Extension Agriculture Program. Clem supervises a team of educators and support staff and is often working “behind the scenes” to develop partnerships, secure resources and engage academic leaders to ensure that his staff and program are positioned for success. 

Growing up on a farm in Vermont, Clem understood that University Extension Programs are essential resources for sustainable land management. He recalls Extension Forest educators coming by his farm regularly to share information about best practices. 

From these initial experiences, Clem decided to study soils at the University of California Berkeley, working on farms and in labs studying agroecology. 

As an accomplished graduate, he began working for the Connecticut River Valley Trust for Public Land where he became involved with land protection and saw the broad influence this work can have. He helped to preserve fisheries, forests, and community spaces, but one project rekindled his passion for agriculture. The Trust succeeded in protecting a 120-acre farm which they then sold to Grow Food Northampton. Subsequently, Clem became the Executive Director of Grow Food Northampton, focusing on community-based agriculture and food security. 

“At some point, I came to the conclusion that I might be able to have more of an impact on the food system from a policy and management standpoint,” he said, recalling the revelation that led him to return to UMass Amherst to obtain a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration. 

As an organizational leader, Clem measures his success by the success of others. 

To support his team and keep them focused he often asks himself: “Where are we headed? What do the people who are out there actually doing this work need to be successful?” 

As his job became more administrative, Clem recognized his desire to return to farming. He now dedicates his nights and weekends to the upkeep of Plum Brook Farm in South Amherst, which he purchased last year. With the help of one other employee, he now manages four acres of fruit trees, berries, and tomatoes, while spending his days supporting the Extension Agriculture Program. 

Clem has explored various career paths, but eventually reconnected with his agricultural roots working as Director of the Extension Agriculture Program and managing Plum Brook Farm.