Farmers Occupy Proposed Development Site with Homegrown Farm Stand

Albany, CA—Following Saturday night’s occupation of the Gill Tract’s south side, a piece of urban farmland slated to become a chain supermarket, celebrations continue today on both sides of the farm. On Saturday 4/25 over 400 people joined the Permaculture Action Day hosted by the UC Gill Tract Community Farm. Bay area residents and UC students from across the state participated in an exciting day of farming, workshops and music.

Shortly before 5pm, Occupy the Farm, joined by community farmers, students and the East Bay permaculture community, marched down San Pablo Ave to the south side of the Gill Tract. Together, the crowd, in an act of civil disobedience, built a farm stand on the site of the proposed union-busting corporate supermarket, Sprouts “Farmers Market.” The private development would pave over 5-6 acres of the historic Gill Tract Farm.

Music, performances, storytelling, and an outdoor screening of INHABIT lasted into the night, as farmers and neighbors pitched tents to occupy the threatened land.

The celebrations continue Sunday 4/26.  From 10-2, the South Side Farmers Market is hosting local queer farmers and farmers of color, a local soup maker, as well as workshops and music throughout the day.

Meanwhile, on the north side, the UC Gill Tract community farm is celebrating the community farm’s one-year birthday party. Highlights include planting in the children’s garden, otherwise known as the Ladybug Peace and Justice Patch.

Finally, UC Berkeley’s Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) has called for an Inter-UC gathering at 1:30pm, including a panel on scholar-activism.

Join us for the second day of celebration of land, labor, life, and learning!

Join us for our REAL farmers market!

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See more photos from Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography

 

Farmers Build Farm Stand to Protest Sprouts Development at UC Berkeley’s Gill Tract

Contact: Matthew McHale, 562-754-8756 matthewmchale@outlook.com
Vanessa Raditz, 202-510-6861 vraditz@gmail.com

Albany, CA—At the end of an exciting day of farming, workshops and music at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm on Saturday, Occupy the Farm led a procession of community farmers, students and the East Bay permaculture community down San Pablo Ave to the south side of the Gill Tract to build a farm stand on the site of the proposed supermarket, Sprouts “Farmers Market.” The private development would pave over 5-6 acres of the Gill Tract.

The farmers are building the farm stand to protest “Sprouts’ and UC Berkeley’s privatization of community land, public education, and local food and farming” the coalition stated. It will also highlight what a real farmers’ market on the Gill Tract could look like, by selling food grown at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm and by local queer farmers and Farmers of Color.

“Our community doesn’t need another corporate supermarket,” says Albany resident, Ed Fields.

The weekend of farming will continue at the Farm on Sunday, with a celebration of the one-year anniversary of the UC Gill Tract Community Farm, permaculture education, kids’ planting workshops, live music, farm tours, and speakers.

Full event details are below, and at https://gilltractfarm.wordpress.com/

This action is a continuation of 20 year struggle by students, faculty, and the community to protect the entirety of the Gill Tract and turn it into an Urban Farm.

“Our land grant University should be honoring its mission of research and education for the public interest, with a center for Urban Agriculture and Food Justice on all 20 acres of this historic farmland, which could include a real farmers’ market,” says Camille Fassett, a student studying food systems at UC Berkeley, and member of SEAL (Students for Engaged and Active Learning).

On Monday, the coalition will hold a national call in day, urging Sprouts’ executives to pull out of the development on the Gill Tract.

Local farmers stress that the Sprouts corporation also hurts farmers and workers through its business and labor practices. “Sprouts is not a farmers’ market,” says Hank Herrera, founder of New Hope Farms & Gill Tract Farm Coalition member. “Using that name for a big-box supermarket is an insult to local farmers who are actually working to fix our broken food system.”

Main Press Times

  • Saturday, 5 pm – Erecting the Farm Stand
  • Sunday, 10 am – Farmers celebrate one-year anniversary of the Community Farm

Weekend Schedule

April 25: Permaculture Action Day
10am: Opening Ceremony and Morning Movement
11am: Sheet Mulching and Building A Resilient Food Ecosystem
12:30: Local Lunch & Music by Cello Joe
2: Creating a Just Transition: Featuring Art Ludwig, Dr. Gail Myers, Penny Livingston, Kirtrina Baxter, moderated by Gopal Dayaneni
3:30: Aztec Dancers: Calpulli Huey Papalotl
4: Music and Dancing with Splendor
5: Closing

April 26: UC Gill Tract Community Farm Birthday Party!
10am: Decolonizing Yoga Workshop and Morning Movement
11am: Storytelling with Farm Elders: Gill Tract Oral Histories
12: Lunch and Speakers from Soil Not Oil Coalition
1:30: Gathering of UC Student Gardeners
3: Panel with Scholar-Activists
5: Closing Ceremony: Visioning the year ahead

Sprouts Management Intimidates Protests of Their Brand

The management of the chain supermarket retailer Sprouts “Farmers Market” is intimidating and repressing protestors who are speaking out about their greenwashed brand, which is set to pave historic Gill Tract farmland in the East Bay.

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One week after a large demonstration at their chain in Walnut Creek, protestors planned a follow-up action for the chain in Petaluma. Over the course of the week before the Petaluma action, Sprouts management sent protestors legal documents suggesting that the parking lot in front of the chain supermarket was not a “free speech” zone, in an attempt to intimidate protestors. On the morning of the protest, the management called for an unprecedented large turnout of police before the first protestors had even arrived, again as an attempt to intimidate. Finally, the Sprouts Management mislead their employees to perceive protestors as violent, telling them false and embellished stories of past protests.

Sprouts is known to be a union-busting grocery store with frequent labor violations. This corporate-style management is not surprising for the chain, despite their “farmers market brand”.

Boycott Sprouts organizers say that they stand with Sprouts employees, who face labor violations in the food system, but they will continue to demonstrate and highlight the greenwashing of the Sprouts corporation, until they pull out of the development of the historic Gill Tract farm.

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

UC Cuts Down 60 Trees at the Gill Tract

This morning, 60 trees were cut down on the southern acreage of the Gill Tract.

The UC’s move to begin clearing the way for their proposed housing and shopping complex came as a shock to farmers and neighbors, as there is an active lawsuit on appeal in the county courts, contesting the development’s detrimental environmental impact.

Knowing the community would mobilize to defend the trees, the UC hired a huge demolition team, cutting down the trees with lightening speed. The last trees were in the process of being destroyed at 9am, as farm supporters arrived.

In response, students and community rallied outside the office of Capital Projects, the department in charge of property development, and we will be at the land tonight to hold space for grieving the loss of the historic arboretum, and discussing next steps.

HOW TO HELP NOW:

1. Join us for a community discussion at 5pm today at the Gill Tract Farm, on the corner of San Pablo & Marin Ave, Albany CA

2. Sign up for our email list and emergency alerts

3. Share (facebook) and retweet (twitter) our social media. #GilltractDefense,

#OccupyTheFarm.

In soil we trust,

Gill Tract Farmers

Gill Tract Trees Cut Down

 

Gill Tract project may feed many, Miguel Altieri Op-Ed

By Miguel Altieri | Special to the Daily Cal

Sixteen months after advocates for community urban farming took over the university’s Gill Tract agricultural experiment station on Earth Day, April 22, 2012, community members are back in the land and farming a portion of it — but this time by invitation to members of the community to get involved in a community-based participatory research project. This project is a unique opportunity not only to rebuild trust among the university and the community in the aftermath of the land occupation but also to break the linear mold of conventional research by creating bridges between scientists and communities through the use of shared knowledge and valuable experiences in urban agriculture.

Forty community farmers from a variety of groups, including Transition Albany and Berkeley, Merritt College, Albany Farm Alliance, Albany Community Garden, Albany Children’s Center and Occupy the Farm gathered at the Gill Tract on Aug. 10 to begin work on a participatory research project carried out with and by local people under my guidance and my team of graduate students. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about agroecological horticulture, but the project entails a fun challenge: 10 teams of four participants each — assigned a plot of 15 rows, 6 meters long — have designed their own crop arrangements, deciding which plants to grow and testing various plant associations, mulching techniques and organic fertilization methods. Throughout the season, participants will assess pest and disease incidence and soil quality conditions to observe the effects of their crop management plans on the productivity and health of their crops. As plants mature, edible biomass and yields will be measured to estimate how much food will be produced in each plot. The groups will be able to visit each other groups’ plots, observing which crop mixtures or agroecological techniques work best and thus learning from others.

A threshold to surpass by all groups is five kilograms of edible biomass per square meter per year, which corresponds to one-third of what an average urban farmer produces in Cuba, a country with 50,000 hectares of urban agriculture producing about 30 percent of the vegetables consumed in the major cities of the island. Reaching such yields would make a huge difference in solving food security problems in low-income neighborhoods of the East Bay if the lessons from our project can be extended via urban farmer to urban-farmer networks. A report released in 2009 identified 1,200 acres of vacant and underutilized public land in Oakland, that could potentially be used for food production. If only half of this land (600 acres or 300 hectares) were cultivated using intensive ecological farming methods that we are testing at Gill Tract, we estimate that these “commons” could contribute about 15,000 tons of vegetables to the local food system. Assuming that each person consumes 100 kilograms of vegetables per year, that is enough vegetables for 150,000 people per year.

One way to promote community outreach will be to hold a field day open to the public so that all interested people can visit the project and perhaps become interested in scaling up ecological urban farming in their communities. Faculty members, students from my courses — ESPM 118, Agroecology, and ESPM 117, Urban Agriculture — and students from other courses will be able to visit the plots and see what the community is doing so that local knowledge and perspectives are not only acknowledged but may also form the basis for further participatory research and planning involving more researchers and new community members. Such activities are consistent with the university’s education and public mission as a land-grant institution with a cooperative extension function. The dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, Keith Gilles, acknowledges this and has facilitated our access to the Gill Tract.

I think this community-based participatory research project represents a golden opportunity for all within the university, including the newly created Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute as well as nonprofit organizations working on food justice and urban agriculture, and community members to jointly revisit the previous ideas for creating a center for sustainable urban farming at the Gill Tract. In an era of climate change, energy crisis and food insecurity, creating local food systems cannot be more strategic.

Miguel Altieri is a UC Berkeley professor of agroecology.

http://www.dailycal.org/2013/08/19/gill-tracts-community-based-research-project/

To SF to Liberate the Land!

liberatetheland

From HumanBeIn.org:

We are being called to defend the land we grow on.
While 36,000 housing units are left empty in San Francisco, property owners and developers plan to build condominiums and high-end housing structures at the cost of displacing urban farms and gardens.

To keep the land arable, the earth able to breathe, and the people of San Francisco able to grow and eat local, nutrient-rich, organic food in the city, people will walk to a potential development site on June 1st to plant food, build a village, and hold space together.

We can out-grow the old power structures!

There will be a dialogue and discussion about the loss of urban gardens to development in San Francisco at the Free Farm at 1 pm (thefreefarm.org) This will be followed by a gathering of folks who will take direct action in Jefferson Square Park directly across Gough Street from the Free Farm. We will get ready to move, plant, and hold space at 2pm. Follow us on twitter @LiberateLand or #liberatetheland if you are late!

The Free Farm

The first bands, workshops, and activities have been confirmed for June 1st, a schedule will be out soon at: http://humanbein.org/schedules/

Please bring skills to share, food to eat, tools, seedling, starts, instruments, and what you need to build a beautiful village on the earth!

For a printable poster to distribute click here: http://humanbein.org/print-out-flyers/

E-Mail us at HumanBeIn2013@gmail.com with offers of material and other support :) Thank you!

More at HumanBeIn.org

Occupy the Farm & March Against Monsanto Day of Action on the Streets

Following daytime marches against the Monsanto corporation, East Bay residents will gather at the Gill Tract Farm at 5 pm on Saturday, May 25th and stay into the afternoon on Sunday, May 26th to share food, music, and educational workshops on sustainable farming methods and social justice topics.

This weekend, the goal of Gill Tract farmers and supporters is to disengage from the war of attrition between the publicly-planted crops and the UC’s plow, which has thrice destroyed countless seedlings planted over recent weeks.

Effie Rawlings, a local community gardener and UC alum lamented the loss of the thousands of pounds of fresh food that would have been produced, but said that “the plants in the ground here are a symbol of our commitment to this farm. Regardless of whether the plants thrive or are tilled under, seeds have taken root in the hearts of local residents, and we will continue our connection here through educational projects and community events.”

This weekend, farmers plan to begin laying the foundation for a community-based research project that studies soil health, and how to improve it. “Accessing soil that is free from toxins and is also nutrient rich like we have at the Gill Tract is the main challenge of urban farming” says Anya Kamenskaya, a green building apprentice and UC alum. “The south side of the Tract presents a great opportunity because most of the soil is relatively pristine, with a few patches that have been damaged by structures. We think those patches can easily be restored, and intend to demonstrate and record our findings so that other urban farmers can benefit.”

This community research project is a way for farmers and neighbors to maintain the space for public education and benefit, that cannot be plowed under. “The UC cannot disrupt this research by plowing it, because they will only be contributing to the remediation of the soil,” says Kamenskaya.

The farmers feel that beginning to develop community-driven research on this site is a way to involve the public on publicly-administered land. These efforts parallel those of Dr. Miguel Altieri, UC Berkeley Agroecology professor, on the north side of the Tract. This summer, Dr. Altieri will lead an urban agriculture participatory research project on the north side of the Gill Tract, one that he has used for similar research for over 20 years.

Farmers Plan to Re-Occupy the Gill Tract Farm

When: Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m.
Where: San Pablo and Monroe, Albany, CA

Albany, CA – On Saturday, May 18th, hundreds of East Bay farmers, Albany residents, and UC Berkeley students will return to the Gill Tract to replant an urban farm on this public land and put it to public use.

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 farm and preserve this rich natural resource in perpetuity, emphasizing much needed research into sustainable urban agriculture, open access, and participation by the larger East Bay community.

On Saturday, May 11th, Occupy the Farm peacefully marched onto the Gill Tract to challenge the UC’s renewed plans for private, commercial development of this public agricultural resource, replacing 5-foot high weeds with thousands of squash, kale, basil, corn, lettuce and tomato plants, and even flowers.

Rather than recognizing this as an opportunity to position itself on the cutting edge of urban agriculture and participatory research, the University raided the farm on Monday, May 13, at 4:30 a.m. and violently arrested four peaceful farmers, three of whom were held for more than 60 hours before being released without charge. The University then ploughed over the farm that morning, destroying thousands of starts that, if nurtured, would have provided sustenance to local communities.

“This land has been vacant for years,” said an Occupy the Farm member, Matthew McHale, “the UC only destroyed the crops because it’s afraid that if the community sees what an amazing asset this would be as a community farm, they would refuse to let it be paved over.”

In protest of the UC’s actions, more than eighty farmers and community members re-converged on Monday afternoon for a rally, then marched back onto the farm to replant the field and recover some of the starts they had planted over the weekend. The University plowed the farm again Tuesday morning.

Since Occupy the Farm first planted on the Gill tract in April 2012, the group has organized at least 10 public forums focused on the Gill Tract as an asset to community-driven participatory research. The UC Berkeley administration has consistently failed to attend, despite being invited repeatedly. Students on campus however, support turning the land into an urban farm; last Spring the Associated Students of the University of California Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of Occupy the Farm.