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Indybay Feature
Occupy the Farm rally in response to City Council decision March 12
by Occupy the Farm
Saturday Mar 8th, 2014 4:03 AM
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2014
Student and Community Groups rally against the decision of Albany City Council to approve development proposal on the Gill Tract Farm

Berkeley, CA -- On March 5th, Albany’s City Council chambers were unable to accommodate the crowd that showed up to speak against a commercial development plan proposed for the Gill Tract Farm, a piece of land currently under the control of UC Capital Projects. Despite overwhelming public opposition to the development, the council voted to adopt a proposal that would pave over this rare historic public farmland to build an assisted living facility and Sprouts chain supermarket. In response, students, community members, and other stakeholders will hold a General Assembly on Sunday, March 9, 2-5pm at the Albany Senior Center, and a protest rally on March 12 at noon in front of California Hall.

Members of the UC Berkeley community composed a large portion of the crowd, joining Albany residents, activists, and urban farmers from all over the East Bay voicing concerns about the consequences of losing rare urban agricultural farmland that compound the privatization and dismantling of California’s public university system.

UC Professor Emeritus Andrew Gutierrez commented: “$140 billion is lost in the US per year due to invasive species. Gill Tract was designed to combat these kinds of problems. We are giving away our legacy and we get Five and Dimes.” The sentiment was echoed by UC Berkeley student Jonathan Reader: “The University is one of the top research institutions in the world. And the conversation being had in the classrooms and between professors and students is: ‘we need to fix food.’ The tool to do it is sitting right here. It is waiting for the city to utilize it.”

Plans for Sunday’s General Assembly and Wednesday’s protest were announced at an impromptu meeting following the Council decision. Student participation in this hearing illustrates renewed campus interest in the Gill Tract, and a coalition of student groups and community members showcased their alternative designs for the contested land: an agricultural learning and research center focused on agroecological methods of food production on the Gill Tract.

The Gill Tract is one of the only contiguous pieces of farmland left in the urbanized East Bay. Now a mere twenty acres, the land stood at over one hundred acres when it first came under the administration of UC Berkeley. Fed by the rising and receding cycle of two creeks which run through the land, the Gill Tract Farm is some of the last Class 1 (best) soil remaining in the urbanized east bay area.

For a more in-depth summary of the March 5th meeting, visit the Student Environmental Research Center blog.