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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense
Gill Tract Community Farm Thriving One Month In — June 1, 2014: photos
A one and a half acre community farm is now thriving at the Gill Tract in Albany. Just a little over a month since the first ever Community Farm Day, more than a hundred pounds of fresh produce have already been harvested, with lots more to come. The infrastructure of the farm is still taking shape and plans are already in the works for late summer, fall, and winter crops. Beyond increasing local food security, the farm looks to lock in and expand upon its successes thus far.
[Pictured: A community farm has taken hold at the Gill Tract in Albany. Balloons mark a celebration on June 1, 2014. Mount Tamalpais can be seen in the distance.]
Occupy the Farm modeled their struggle for control of the land on the successes of Brazil's Movimento Sem Terra (MST). By repeatedly occupying the land against the wishes of the University of California and by seeking out and building alliances with community and university allies, OTF initiated a process that has made significant in-roads against a previously intransigent UC. In addition to granting community use of one and a half acres of the Gill Tract, as well as space in a greenhouse on the UC Berkeley campus, the University has agreed to reimburse operating costs of up to $10,000, money to cover seed, starters, tools, a shed, netting to protect the produce from birds, and so forth.
And yet the struggle is not over. In many ways, with this foothold at the Gill Tract Community Farm, it is just beginning.
The fight against further commercial development on the larger Gill Tract continues. A shopping center anchored by a Sprouts grocery store is slated to be built just south of the new community farm, on the other side of Marin creek and a small forested area. As with the struggle to create the Gill Tract Community Farm, a variety of tactics are being employed, from direct negotiations with the University to petitions to demonstrations at and boycotts of existing Sprouts grocery stores. Several groups are involved in this effort, primarily Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) at this point. The development was originally scheduled to be centered around a Whole Foods grocery store, and those plans were abandoned after grassroots pressure was exerted by advocates for community farming at the Gill Tract, so activists remain hopeful that the new Sprouts can be defeated as well.
Farmers are working hard to prove the viability of the community farm and welcome all comers to get involved. There is always work to be done maintaining the farm, with plenty of fresh produce to pick and distribute. Currently, the farm is growing a wide array of plants including basil, scarlet runner beans, snap beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplants, kale, leeks, a variety of lettuces, melons, several types of peppers, radishes, summer and winter squash, sunflowers, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and even Hopi tobacco. Some of the new plants to be rotated in by late summer will likely include Brussel sprouts, cabbage, endive, parsnip, rutabagas, and spinach. In the fall, artichoke roots, fava beans, cauliflower, kholrabi, mustard, peas, rhubarb, and turnips will be added. Plans for a winter crop are already being mapped out as well. The idea is for the farm to be productive year-round.
Further tangible results and sustainable successes will depend on the level of involvement the farm is able to generate. With the establishment of the first ever community farm on the land, farmers and food sovereignty activists hope to eventually expand to the rest of the Gill Tract that is not yet paved over. There are some who are eyeing other potential farming locations in Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland.
It is hoped, that much like the Occupy Oakland encampment did in its time, the Gill Tract Community Farm can serve as a permanent base for social justice cross-pollination — a source of inspiration for, and sharing resources with, other like-minded projects throughout the East Bay — centered around producing high quality, healthy produce for area residents while increasing food security for those most in need.
Open hours for the farm are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-7:30pm and Sundays from 10:00am-4:00pm. Anyone interested in urban farming is welcome to come by and help with a variety of tasks needed to keep the farm thriving, as well as to harvest delicious fresh vegetables as they become ready for picking.
Gill Tract Community Farm: A farm for the people
Gill Tract's First Community Farm Day, April 26, 2014: photos
International Day of Peasant Resistance: Who Is the Movimento Sem Terra? Report Back
For more information on the opening of the community farm and Occupy the Farm history:
Land UC Berekeley continues to use for agricultural research is seen in the background.
The netting itself doesn't show in this photograph.
Dan Siegel has provided pro bono legal services to those involved in the struggle to create a community farm at the Gill Tract, including defending against a lawsuit filed by the University of California (https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/20/18715894.php). Support for neighborhood gardens is one of the platforms in Dan's campaign (https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/01/16/18749313.php).
See https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/06/01/18756691.php#18756731 for coverage of the initial tree planting.