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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing, and Public Services
Occupy The Farm in Discussion with UC Researchers / Weekend Open House Planned
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2012
Occupy The Farm in Discussion with UC Researchers
Weekend Open House Planned for Community and Media
The coalition of local residents, farmers, students, and activists occupying the Gill Tract is currently in direct discussion with UC Berkeley Gill Tract researchers, contrary to claims put forth in the UC's latest public statement. The UCB administration has not taken part in conversations between Occupy the Farm and researchers.
The UC has consistently acted in bad faith, disregarding community input. For decades, students, faculty, and local residents have tried to engage the UC in dialogue, articulating their desire to transform the Gill Tract into a center for sustainable urban agriculture.
Instead, the UC transferred administration of the Gill Tract from the College of Natural Resources to Capital Projects, the arm of the university responsible for managing development. The UC Village Master Plan would replace the current agricultural land with ambiguously-termed commercial, recreational, and "open" space. Farmland is for farming, and we cannot allow the UC to destroy one of the best resources for urban agriculture in the Bay Area.
Major Community Events Planned for Weekend
From 10 AM to sundown on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th, Occupy the Farm will host a weekend of workshops, farming and family fun! Events will including a special teach-in by Dr. Miguel Altieri, who has been conducting agroecological research at the Gill Tract since 1981. The workshop will begin at 12pm on Saturday, and Dr. Altieri will field questions from the media at 1pm.
Below is a full list of events to occur at the farm throughout the weekend.
10 AM: Yoga for radical farmers with Sri louise
11 AM: Intro to permaculture - Ryan Rising
12 - 1: Potluck lunch, seed planting all day w/ 10 min demos on the hour in the field
Also at 12: Teach-in with Dr. Miguel Altieri
1 PM: Media Q and A with Dr. Miguel Altieri
1-2 PM: Design charette - bring your visions, drawings, and ideas for the farm
2 PM: Corn planting (three sisters) w/ Ashoka
2 PM: Fermentation w/ erin @ kitchen
3 PM: Massage kale cooking, kitchen area
3 PM: Permaculture garden groundwork - pathways and planting beds in the children's garden
4 PM: Indian cooking at the kitchen
4 PM: Seed bomb workshop w/ the youth!
5 PM: School house construction
5 PM: Folk music jam w/ lesley
5:45 PM: Blessing w/ Colin
6 PM: Sit down dinner
8 PM (Sunset): Movie and film screenings w/ popcorn!
Sunday : Throw the hoe down
10 AM: Meditation and yoga w/ colin
11 AM: Ladybug patch grandopeneing and celebration - children's edu garden and petting place
11:15-11:45 AM: Family yoga w/ Sheri Spellwoman at the Ladybug patch
12 PM: Lunch and poetry readings at the kitchen
1 PM: Hoe down and square dance
4 PM: Water Strider band
5 PM: Folk jam w/ lesley
6 PM: Sit down dinner
Also see this debunking of an earlier UC press release: The UC's Gill Tract Doomed for Development, Just Not "Immediately" University Assures Us (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/04/24/18712015.php)
And here's the UC's latest disingenuous press release:
University officials visit Gill Tract to speak with protesters
By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley | April 25, 2012
J. Keith Gilless, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, spent more than an hour Tuesday in dialogue with protesters who are illegally trespassing on the Gill Tract in Albany. He provided facts and information concerning the site and its research uses.
UC Berkeley at this time is calling on Occupy the Farm to peacefully and safely end the encampment and vacate the property immediately. Its position on the issue is detailed below:
UC response to Gill Tract illegal occupation
The Gill Tract has been a living classroom for UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources (CNR) for more than 50 years. The Gill Tract provides a small but significant agricultural research land in a dense urban area.
CNR’s well-respected research activities on the site encompass basic plant biology, alternative cropping systems, plant-insect interactions and tree pests and pathogens.
Each year’s planting typically occurs after the last rains. During the winter (dormant) months, the land is rejuvenated with appropriate plant cover. CNR faculty and students have been gearing up for planting in the coming weeks.
The Gill Tract is bordered by a two major thoroughfares – San Pablo Avenue, which is also a state highway, and Buchanan Street, which is a main exit off of both I-880 and 580. UC Berkeley students and faculty can easily access the Gill Tract by bike, public transit or car.
The Gill Tract sits at the northeast quadrant of UC Berkeley’s property, adjacent to University Village, UC Berkeley’s graduate student housing. A total of 976 graduate students and their families reside in the Village, and are part of the Albany community. Many people may remember the former Village housing — reused military barracks. Upon completing the new Village housing, the barracks were demolished. The proposed Whole Foods market and senior housing will replace the aging housing adjacent on both sides of Monroe Street. Neither would be sited on the agricultural portion of the Gill Tract.
Current status of Gill Tract with Occupy the Farm
A group of people illegally “occupied” the Gill Tract on April 22, terming the action “Occupy the Farm.” After breaking the locks, they embarked on a large-scale clearing of the land and planting of vegetable plots. These new plots are taking the place of what was intended to be CNR educational, agricultural study for faculty and students who have been eagerly preparing and awaiting the right time to start their Gill Tract research. From the University perspective, the actions of Occupy the Farm are the equivalent to taking valuable, needed classrooms or laboratories away from students and faculty.
The faculty and students at Berkeley are leaders in advocating for sustainable practices and food systems, and have been doing so for decades. Many of us are passionate advocates of efforts to develop a new metropolitan agriculture paradigm focused on improved nutrition and safe, cost effective, collaborative approaches to food security and access. We are committed to metropolitan agriculture projects that are well planned, sustainable and considerate of all members of our community.
University of California’s responsibility as stewards of public land
The Gill Tract is not land that is conducive or safe for people to live on. There are no longer any lodging facilities, bathrooms or kitchens available at the site. UC Berkeley takes seriously the health and safety of faculty, students and visitors to any campus facility. We cannot condone or permit the unlawful camping on the Gill Tract.
We are committed to, and potentially legally liable for, the personal safety of anyone who is on our land. Metropolitan agriculture is a wonderful educational opportunity for children, but volunteers, children and farming equipment require careful management. UC, in cooperation with dedicated and trained volunteers, already administers California’s 4-H program. We have a good track record of running such programs effectively and safely.
We are concerned about how Occupy the Farm is addressing sanitation. Hand washing and safe food handling and preparation are important and treatment of human waste is critical. UC Berkeley does not support composting human waste, due to the possibility of the transmission of disease, especially on agricultural land.
The water system at the Gill Tract is designed for agriculture, not camping or habitation. The University turned off the irrigation during the unlawful occupation. This action did not impact the fire hydrants surrounding the Gill Tract serving the local community.
It is our responsibility to UC Berkeley students and faculty in CNR to ensure the Gill Tract can be prepared for their education and research purposes. Representatives of the University are willing to meet with any interested community members to discuss metropolitan, sustainable agriculture, but we must ensure that UC Berkeley research can resume safely at the Gill Tract.
At this point, Occupy the Farm is preventing UC Berkeley from meeting the needs of our students and faculty.
UC Berkeley calls on Occupy the Farm to:
- Vacate the Gill Tract safely, peacefully and immediately.
- Remove all encampment and farming supplies.
- Organize a committee to meet with UC Berkeley representatives to discuss opportunities for a metropolitan agriculture program affiliated with UC Berkeley.