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East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Environment & Forest Defense | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
Vegetables Bulldozed inside Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store
In-Store Theatre Demands that Sprouts Pulls Out of Development Deal of Community Farm Land
Today, Friday, September 27, 2013, a group of vegetables were bulldozed inside an East Bay location of Sprouts Farmers Market--a grocery store chain with 160 locations throughout the Southwest and Western United States. Sprouts Farmers Market recently entered a development contract with the University of California Berkeley to develop what is currently a piece of agricultural land into a new store location and parking lot in the city of Albany, just north of Berkeley, CA. The development plan has spurred a campaign against the development project and the store: Boycott Sprouts (http://www.boycottsprouts.com).
A group of people dressed in fruit and vegetable costumes, along with two children dressed as a bee and a hummingbird (calling attention to the loss of habitat for pollinators), entered the Walnut Creek location of Sprouts Farmers' Market at 6pm today. The vegetable people walked to the back of the store where they attempted to rally their comrade vegetables on the shelves to resist the development alongside them. When the shelved vegetables didn't respond, the vegetable people called upon the shoppers in the store to defend them from the impending "bulldozing of their farm."
As the actors dressed as grapes, carrots, tomatoes, and brussels sprouts informed Sprouts shoppers that the piece of community farmland where they grow would soon be bulldozed and turned into a parking lot without their help, a big yellow cardboard bulldozer came steaming down the aisle proclaiming "the parking lot goes here!" as it approached the scared and scurrying vegetables.
The land in question is known as the Gill Tract Farm and was given to the University of California in the early 1900s for the purposes of agriculture and education. Since then, although a large portion of it has already been developed for non-agricultural purposes, much of the land has served as research farmland for ecological agriculture. BoycottSprouts.com states that, "the soil your market and parking lot would pave over is a rare natural resource for our urban community…[with] value to its Bay Area neighbors, and to the educational community at UC." BoycottSprouts.com links to two petition hosting websites where, along with paper petitions, over 300 signatures have already been collected, many from Sprouts shoppers themselves, insisting that the company pull out of the development deal.
Whole Foods Market--the much larger grocery store chain--pulled out of the same development deal with the UC in 2012 after a protest action called attention to the contestation of the land's use. Organizers of today's in-store theatre say they want everyone to realize that, "land has value". "People should think of all the possible uses for this land before it is given away to the lowest common denominator money making scheme," said one out-of-costume land defender, "We are the public and the public has concerns about how this land will be used."