Developers have broken ground at the Gill Tract, the fight continues…

The southernmost parcel of the Gill Tract (south of Monroe Street) has been fenced off, and trenching and surveying has begun, in preparation for it to be bulldozed and paved for the high-end senior housing complex.  The shopping center site will surely be next.

Tenacious folks have been mobilizing around this terrible news, captured in this video titled “We’re Still Fighting!”.  In it, a group takes action to disrupt the development, and local elders explain why an over-priced senior housing project is the WRONG solution—both for seniors and for some of the last remaining farmland in the East Bay.

The struggle is far from over, and we applaud direct action to resist this latest attack on the land! Fill out this short survey to plug into our organizing from wherever you are, and…

Join us for upcoming actions!:

  1. Sprouts Supermarket Now In Our Own Backyards

We oppose Sprouts not only because they are the anchor tenant of the shopping center that threatens to pave the historic Gill Tract, but also because their greenwashing undermines *real* farmer’s markets and locally owned groceries.  Sprouts opened a new store last week in downtown Oakland, and we are UNwelcoming their arrival with repeated actions almost everyday.

Sprouts management has been sweating, and called out twenty Oakland Police officers last week to remove us, only to be informed that the constitution is on our side,  and we can’t be stopped from protesting on Sprout’s grounds. Help us keep up the pressure and inform neighbors about the boycott.  Ongoing dates and times will be announced on our FB event page.  The next one is: Wednesday Jan. 20th, 2-5:30pm, 3035 Broadway, Oakland

  1. THIS WEEKEND, January 23rd & 24th : Building with local communities through PeopleSkool, Music, and A Walk on the Gill Tract Sacred Land.

Saturday and Sunday in Oakland:  We invite you to join other OTF organizers and supporters in attending the inspiring two-day PeopleSkool, offered by POOR Magazine and Homefulness in East Oakland.  Through deepening our relationships and understanding of colonization and gentrification, we hope to build power together with POOR communities, especially around land liberation.

From PeopleSkool event page:  We Teach thru verse, prayer, talk-story, theatre, poetry and love.  As poor & indigenous peoples practicing what we call poverty skolaship/lived education taught, shared outside the institution we teach through the mulitple actions of poetry, verse, song,talk-story,theatre and prayer, all rooted in our own real life experiences.

Sliding scale & flexible tuition with proceeds supporting the important work at POOR.  Please register online and help us by sharing and inviting friends on facebook.

Sunday 3-5pm at the Gill Tract, San Pablo + Marin Ave, Albany:  Whether you’re able to attend PeopleSkool or not, join us for the culminating event, on the Gill Tract with music by RedStar and a walk, ceremony, and prayer on sacred land, lead by the Indigenous Land Access Committee. More info at https://www.facebook.com/events/1693590484213343/

* * * * * * * * * *
Other Ways to Support:

  • Fill out this short survey to plug into the action and other support from wherever you are!  (We are especially in need of more videographers.)
  • Invite folks to watch the documentary, now available online.
  • Donate online, we can only do this with your support.

Shutting Down Sprouts Supermarket….

Reportback from the #GilltractDefense and Boycott Sprouts action on March 14, 2015 in Walnut Creek, Calif.

By Kaitlin Oki and Kat Perkins

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Arranged in a human blockade in the main entrance of the Sprouts Farmers Market in Walnut Creek, California Saturday afternoon, I and two dozen others held a sit-in around the remnants of one of the 53 trees demolished in late February in preparation for the construction of Sprouts’s newest location: the Gill Tract in Albany, California. In defiance of the commercial development of the last remaining agricultural land in the Albany-Berkeley area and the destruction of the Gill Tract Community Farm, Occupy the Farm activists, Fast Food Workers Union delegates, veterans, students, and community members picketed, bearing the branches of the felled trees, chanted to the tunes of the Brass Liberation Orchestra and Occupella, and spoke about the boycott.

The best part came with an entourage of ralliers armed with shopping carts, marching into Sprouts “Farmers Market” to the head-turning resonance of brass instruments and snare drums. As I danced between the aisles of individually packaged containers of dried fruit and gourmet candies, I mused that this was probably the closest the store had come to resembling an authentic farmers market. You know — the kind with actual farmers, live music, and values not preceded by dollar signs.image05

What a travesty! The whole situation is so absurd it makes me laugh. Not only does the corporate chain of Sprouts continually misrepresent its products as “local” and “natural” and plaster its walls with romanticized agricultural imagery, but it also neatly packages the entirety of its capitalist culture, union-busting actions, and monolithic corporate structure within stucco walls and hardwood floors and labels it in big green letters: FARMERS MARKET. And then proceeds to layer a thick slab of cement and pavement atop the last remaining bit of viable agricultural land in the Berkeley-Albany area. Land rich with humus and sweat and tears. Land sold by the Gill family almost hundred years ago to the land-grant University of California for the purposed of agricultural research to benefit the public. Land labored, loved, and defended by dozens of student farmers, stewarded and shaped by the hands of a community for the development image00of community. Not simply rows of beautiful purple kale and hearty beans and summer squash, but the tangible staging ground for defiance in the face of the privatization and commodification of public resources (e.g., food, land, and education) and the destruction of community common spaces and active civic participation. At the very least, I hope Sprouts customers can recognize the blatant irony if not the atrocious insult of abusing the phrase “farmers market” in this way.

A visibly puzzled Walnut Creek shopper turned to me amongst the commotion, “What’s going on?” I explained, “We’re farmers of the Gill Tract— one of the last pieces of farmland in the Berkeley-Albany area. And this store is trying to pave over our farm, so we’re protesting — disrupting Sprouts’ business as usual until they stop disrupting our community.”

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Indeed, a handful of the Sprouts staff stood by passively at the back of the store behind rolling smartphone cameras. A fellow rallier repeatedly asked a butcher, “Excuse me. Can I please get five pounds of ribeye?” who politely nodded and then mysteriously disappeared behind the meats counter. Sprouts customers quickly grew more confused and/or annoyed trying to navigate the now crowded aisles. Business, indeed, was not proceeding as usual. A few moments later, and a police officer redirected me toward the second entrance, where Sprouts customers and ralliers alike headed in a sudden exodus, police nipping at our heels. I abandoned my half-full grocery cart and followed suit.

Abruptly, not more than ten feet ahead, grocery carts fell noisily to the floor in front of the automatic sliding doors. In the next moment, a storefront display was upset, and within seconds, multiple police swiftly rushed past me and shoved their way through the crowd, handcuffed the woman now down on the sidewalk, and escorted her to a police vehicle parked on Geary Road. The rally kept pace, shouting in unison, “Let her go! Let her go!” and offering the woman reassurance through the tinted glass. Another minute, and the police car sped away.

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Infuriated and distraught, we returned to the storefront. Briefly it seemed the positive energy and enthusiasm of the rally would dissipate. At this point, however, one of the rally organizers picked up the bullhorn. He reminded us that we would not back down in the face of adversity and police diversionary tactics — that we would continue to exercise our rights and challenge oppressive institutions, be it police, corrupt UC regents, or the privatization of the commons. And after all, we had just successfully shut down the store. That said, the brass band picked up their instruments, and dancing and chanting ensued once again.

image01It’s exactly this kind of attitude that restores my faithincreating positive change in a world that often seems unkind. It’s the kind of thing that reawakens my heart when my mind has become saturated with one tragic news headline after another. And to know this is only the beginning, only the first of many things to come — that gives me hope. We’re not stopping now, nor anytime soon — not until Sprouts and the University of California drop the idea of paving over any inch of our twenty acres. We will disrupt business as usual until they terminate their contract with the University. We will continue to point out the hypocrisy of police who enact violence on our communities, target women of color, and protect the theft of public resources. I think I can speak on the behalf of many present at the rally when I say that I felt a renewed commitment to action against corporate land grabs, greenwashed groceries, and a privatized University of California.

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Support Occupy The Farm on March 14th

#GillTractDefense Rally at Sprouts

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March 14th at 1:00 pm 

Sprouts “Farmer’s Market” Walnut Creek Retail Store

1530 Geary Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

NEED A RIDE from Berkeley? RSVP for a ride here!

RSVP and invite friends on facebook!

This is a Call for Support! In the early morning of Thursday, February 26th, UC Berkeley’s office of Capital Projects brought in a huge demolition team and police force to clear-cut 53 trees on the south side of the historic Gill Tract. For 20 years, the local community, students, and faculty have attempted to create a visionary research and education center on this public land. In 

2012 Occupy the Farm’s successful land occupations pushed out Whole Foods from the development, and saved 10 acres for 10 years. But 5-6 acres of the southern half of the Gill Tract is now under threat of imminent development, and our ability to create a 20 acre community-driven living laboratory for a Just Transition could disappear in an instant.

Click here to read a complete update on OTF’s website.

 

Why focus on Sprouts?  We’ve kicked out Whole Foods, and we can kick out Sprouts, setting back the entire development project. Not only is Sprouts “farmer’s market” the anchor tenant on the Gill Tract development, it is also a big-box, union-busting corporate chain supermarket that ships in food from all over the world and relies on food system injustices to make a profit. Their use of the word “Farmer’s Market” confuses the public and undermines local farmers who rely on real farmer’s markets for their livelihood. Read more here.

 What else can you do right now?

  1. Tell us what you’re into.  From web design, to farming, to social media and outreach, we need all hands on deck.  This quick survey will help us connect you to the action,  no matter where in the world you are. 
  2. Call and Email Ted Frumkin, Sprouts’ Senior Vice President of Business Development. Tell him: “DON’T BUILD YOUR NEW STORE ON THE GILL TRACT!”  tedfrumkin@sprouts.com; 602-682-1556
  3. Join our social media campaign: Take a photo of yourself with your definition of a farmer’s market, letting Sprouts know we see through their greenwash, and tweet or Facebook : @sproutsfm Don’t pave the Gill Tract for your  fake farmers market! #BoycottSprouts  #GillTractDefense  #OccupyTheFarm
  4. Donate on our website, occupythefarm.org.  We run almost entirely on people power, but things like fuel and website domains add up.

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Thank you for your continued support, love, and vision.  Hope to see you Saturday!

In soil we trust,

The OTF Collective

Twitter: @OccupyFarm

Facebook: Occupy the Farm

Please sign THIS Petition to save the Gill Tract Farm!

Occupy The Farm is urging all our supporters to SIGN THE SEAL PETITION.  It is originated by Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL), and calls on the UC Berkeley administration, the UC Regents, and President Napolitano, to halt the current development plan for the Gill Tract Farm and enter into a collaborative design process with students and community.  This design process would produce an alternative plan encompassing all of the remaining undeveloped land on the Gill Tract, one that better serves student and community needs.  For questions, or to contact delegates for media statements, please email seal.students@gmail.com.

Occupy the Farm Re-Establishes Farm on Gill Tract

Albany, CA Three days after UC Berkeley’s new development proposal on the Gill Tract was voted down at the City of Albany’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on May 8th, the organizing group Occupy the Farm has again taken a stand for public education and urban agriculture, setting down roots on the hotly contested land.

“People have been fighting to preserve this land for farming for decades, because they recognize that because this is UC land, all residents of the East Bay have a stake and a say in what happens to this public resource,” said Lesley Haddock, a third year student in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources. “After fifteen years of trying to work through UC’s undemocratic process, public protest is our last option.”

Since 1997, coalitions of local residents, non-profits, and UC students and faculty have brought forth proposals to the UC administration for the creation of a sustainable urban agriculture curriculum on the entire Gill Tract. Administrators consistently rejected these proposals, and have been accused of not giving the proposals due consideration.

“Today we’re planting on the site of the proposed commercial development because we want to remind people what they will lose if a chain store and parking lot get built here,” stated Ashoka Finley, urban farmer and UC alum. “The UC, Albany even, could be on the cutting edge of participatory, community-based urban ag research, and they’re just throwing that opportunity away.”

Building on Occupy the Farm’s action in April-May 2012, today’s protest was focused on community education around food production . Farmers and activists were seen planting vegetables together, watering crops and passing out free plant starts to passers-by. There was a range of educational activities, including a seed-ball making workshop organized by a seven year-old. The young girl stated, “I just wanted to do it at a time when I knew a lot of kids would show up.”

As one of the last large plots of fertile agricultural soil left in the East Bay, the Gill Tract holds great potential for shifting our communities towards self-sufficiency through large-scale urban agriculture education. Occupy the Farm will be working all weekend to turn the south plot of the Gill Tract from an empty lot into an urban farm and community asset.
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Occupy the Farm to Plant on Gill Tract

On May 11th, farmers, students, and local residents will peacefully march onto the Gill Tract and re-establish a public urban farm, challenging the UC’s renewed plans for private, commercial development of this public agricultural resource.

Last year, Occupy the Farm hosted a three-week occupation of the Gill Tract, creating an urban farm that produced several tons of organic produce that the group distributed for free at pop-up farmstands in Albany, Oakland and Richmond. As a result of this direct farming action, control of the northern half of the Gill Tract was transferred from UC’s Capital Projects back to the UC College of Natural Resources, at least for 10 years.

However, last week the University announced that it had found a new developer to pave over the Gill Tract and build another chain grocery store on the site. This was announced despite fifteen years of resistance from Albany residents and East Bay community members, including a successful grassroots voter referendum in Albany, two lawsuits, and numerous direct action campaigns and public protests. With nearly two-thirds of those present speaking against the proposed development at Wednesday’s Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, local opposition to the development is still strong.

“This is really about highest and best use of the land,” says local elder Sally Sommer. “40 years ago, when my daughter was a preschooler in Albany, the Gill Tract was a working farm and we’d often visit together. I would love to do that again.”

As land administered by a publicly-funded institution with a mandate for public education, it is in the public’s interest for this land to be returned to that highest and best use as a source of local food production and agricultural education. Occupy the Farm envisions a future in which East Bay communities make use of all available land – occupying it when necessary – to create urban agriculture alternatives and meet local needs in the face of economic and environmental crisis. The long term goal on the Gill Tract is to establish a productive and democratically-run urban farm, with open access and participation by the larger East Bay community, and to preserve this rich natural resource in perpetuity.

“As the last large piece of ag land left in the East Bay, the Gill Tract is a crucial piece of the vision for food sovereignty in this area,” says Lesley Haddock, current UC Berkeley student. “The south side of this historic farmland is part of the whole, and also irreplaceable.”

Since last April, Occupy the Farm has continued to work with fellow urban farmers, community organizations and allies on campus to engage in meaningful dialogue around what a community partnership with the UC could look like. This diverse group of stakeholders recognizes the Farm as an icon of the structural challenges facing communities all over the world, as they struggle for land access and food justice. Occupy the Farm is committed to maintaining these positive, collaborative relationships, even as they call for another direct action on May 11th.

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Spring Into Action

Saturday, May 11th at Noon: Plant the Farm and Occupy!
Meet up at Albany City Hall, 1000 San Pablo Ave!
Help spread the word on facebook!

Ahoy Farmsters, Occupiers, Friends!

It was about this time last year that UC’s development project, slated to pave over much of the historic Gill Tract Farm, was brought to the forefront of public debate by our three-week land occupation. The momentum continued into the summer with a campaign of direct action farming and guerilla food distribution, numerous public forums and speakouts in favor of the farm, a local referendum and two lawsuits against the UC’s plan.

All of this hard work helped establish a broad based coalition of grassroots groups, and it also secured two huge victories: control of the northern half of the Gill Tract was transferred from UC’s Capital Projects back to the UC College of Natural Resources, and the anchor tenant on the southern half of the Farm, Whole Foods, pulled out of the UC’s development project entirely.

We are encouraged to see the north side of the Farm under the administration of the College of Natural Resources (CNR), even if the reprieve from development is temporary (the UC’s arrangement is only for 10 years). We have begun work with fellow urban farmers and allies on campus to engage in meaningful dialogue around what a community partnership with the UC could look like. This diverse group of stakeholders recognizes the Farm as an icon of the structural challenges facing communities all over the world, as they struggle for land access and food justice. OTF is committed to maintaining these positive, collaborative relationships, even as we call for another direct action on May 11th.

Our call to action is spurred by UC Capital Projects’ recent unveiling of a renewed development plan for the Farm, which aims to replace Whole Foods with a smaller grocery store called Sprouts. At first glance that might sound like a win for farm supporters, but a closer look shows that the new development will have the same footprint as the old ones, with a large parking lot that would blanket most of the south side of the farm.

It is inspiring to see Albany residents rally to protect the Farm, joining a larger community that is not restricted to geographic proximity. Every resident of California is a stakeholder in the UC: it is up to us to ensure that the UC’s stewardship of the Gill Tract does not sacrifice our interests in public land and public education in favor of corporate interests and a quick profit. Each of you receiving this email, no matter where you are in the world, is a critical constituent in the battle for an Urban Farm at the Gill Tract, and it in turn reflects and magnifies the struggles of every other community that is fighting for the highest and best use of our planet’s food system and natural resources.

The southern portion of the Gill Tract Farm that is under threat has not been cultivated for years, but the soil remains some of the most fertile in the bioregion. Fed by the rising and receding cycle of the two creeks that have run through the land for millennia, and subject to comparatively little development or contamination since World War II, the remaining portion of the Farm is irreplaceable in its capacity to build local resiliency through the cultivation of food, knowledge, and community.

On Saturday, May 11th, we will launch an action that manifests the highest and best use of the Gill Tract farmland!

Meet at 12 noon sharp
Albany City Hall, 1000 San Pablo Ave
Be prepared to farm and occupy!

Can you help? RSVP to occupythefarmrsvp@gmail.com if you can:

  • Attend the actions… and bring friends!
  • Support us with material needs such as food, drinking water, water for plants, tools, transport!
  • Spread the word!: invite folks to the facebook events for May 8 and May 11, print and post up flyers.
  • Email Albany City Government cityhall@albanyca.org to express your disappointment with the UC’s new development plans, and copy us at otfalbany@gmail.com so we can keep a count! Or call “Community Development Director” Jeff Bond at 510-528-5769.
  • Donate! Watch for a specific wish list going up on our website soon, or donate to us through our wepay account.

On Sunday, we will be spreading the love across the bay… helping to save Esperanza Gardens in SF, which is also on the development chopping block. Download the flyer, and learn more at HumanBeIn.org

May 11 poster

Liberate the Land Party

Saturday, May 11th – Sunday May 12th

Come one, come all, to a good ol’ fashioned short-form occupation.
There will be farming (of course), your friends and neighbors, skill-shares, music, and more!

We will gather in front of Albany City Hall (San Pablo and Marin in Albany, CA) before we head over to do some planting.

Bring tools if you can (shovels, digging forks, trowels, sun hat, gloves), drinking water, and stories to share. Also, don’t forget tents and sleeping bags.

On Sunday, we will be spreading the love across the bay… helping to save Esperanza Gardens in SF, which is also on the development chopping block. See the attached flyer and learn more at HumanBeIn.org

If you can provide support: childcare, water, truck / transport, tools, farming machinery, $$, portapotties, food, music, art, or if you can help us do outreach please reach out to us at occupythefarmrsvp@gmail.com.

Plans for plant care TBD.

To get caught up on whats going on, read our news bulletin at bit.ly/16eRJNB

Share the event on facebook

Farm Spring/Sprung!

FARMSPRUNG 4/20 – THIS SATURDAY!

Party and Concert for Occupy The Farm

@3090 King St, Berkeley CA

Roll on in to celebrate the good word: One year later, Occupy the Farm is still planting and plotting!

Come ready to shake it, and enjoy curiosities of the beverage and delectable variety. You may even catch news on spring strategies if you’re lucky, as the fight for farmland across the Bay Area evolves.

ABOUT THE MUSICIANS:

VOYAJ kicks us off in the garden from 8:00-8:20: Hyper-colored textures and bass you can feel visually manifesting as a triple serpentine (or angular) synthetic mandala that tells a worthwhile story coupled with nonchalant vocals that play with your brain waves like a dark jester.

Upside Drown (8:30-8:50pm): rocks in a sublimely whimsical way, altering the mood in a room with vocal harmonies, lilting electric guitar and sparse yet charismatic percussion blend. Their voices evoke a West Coast lo-fi aesthetic~ seeped in the haunted, wet forests of the Pacific Northwest and deconstructed by the dingy whimsy of Oakland punkery

SHAKE YOUR PEACE! (9:45-10:30pm): A San Francisco-based band playing a celebratory and political style of music called Whup – combining stylistic elements of bluegrass, Afro-Latin, gospel, and folk-rock.

Future Twin (9:00-9:30) self-describes as sonic anthropologists, taking inspiration from brian eno, ganglians, animals and men, the atler set, royal baths, grass widow, dead eyes. Founded in october 2010 in san francisco, Future Twin was brought together by the all girl moped gang the Lockits.

Michael Zeligs (10:45-11:15pm) will close us out as only he can: a live performance as a way of activating communities of people to sing together, helping us all learn to stand in our voice. The genre is a kind of “new american kirtan”, and his studio songs are constructed using looping textures to enable big choruses of people to be joined in song.

FACEBOOK EVENT

poster by fema

Vernal Equinox Spring Celebration

Thursday, March 21st • 12pm-4pm
Memorial Glade, UC Berkeley campus

Join Occupy the Farm and student group We Dig the Farm for a merry afternoon
celebrating spring!

Featuring

Seed Planting + Seedling giveaways: we’ve got the seeds, dirt and itty bitty pots, you bring your hands and ears and we’ll teach you all about growing your own food and send you home with a head start

T-shirt and poster making: t-shirts and poster materials provided along with paint and artsy stencils

Food!!! compliments Food Not Bombs

Live Music and acclaimed speakers delivering tunes and knowledge throughout the entire event.

     12:30-1:30 Wago and Chris of Magnetic Highway
     2:00-2:30  Dear Indugu
     3:30-4:00  Emily Yates, Ukulele Superstar!

The acclaimed speakers will be interspersed with the music, and they are TBA

Brings friends, family, and a blanket or two sit on. We will provide the rest!!

Also check out the event on facebook

Spread the word, share this poster: