In the early morning of Thursday, February 26th, UC Berkeley’s office of Capital Projects commissioned the clear-cut of 60 trees on the south side of the historic Gill Tract Farm. The UC’s quick move to begin clearing the way for their proposed housing and shopping complex shocked farmers and neighbors, who are still awaiting a date for 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 and police force, cutting down the trees with lightning speed before community could arrive.
For 20 years, the local community, students, and faculty have attempted to create a Center for Urban Agriculture on this public land. In 2012, Occupy the Farm’s successful land occupations pushed out Whole Foods from the development, transferred 10 acres of land from Capital Projects to the College of Natural Resources for 10 years, and established a new community farm project on 1.13 acres. Our community is in mourning, but we continue to actively farm on the north side of the land, where we build local community, teach and engage students in the root injustices in the corporate food system, and grow affordable produce for food insecure communities.
We envision this 1.13 acre project expanding to all 20 acres of the historic Gill Tract farmland, to include model permaculture gardens, farmers markets and urban food distribution hubs, outdoor classrooms and kitchens, traditional medicinal herbs and more. We envision an authentic community-driven living laboratory for what we need for a Just Transition.
But with the 60 trees suddenly lost, the southern 5-6 acres of the Gill Tract is now under threat of imminent development and our ability to implement our vision could disappear in an instant. We are expediting our action plan, and we need your help. Join the Emergency Bulldozer Response Team.
When Whole Foods pulled out of the development after Occupy the Farm’s actions, the entire project was pushed back two years. We need to take our story directly to the new anchor tenant, Sprouts “Farmer’s Market to pressure them to pull out. If Sprouts pulls out, it sends them back to the drawing board, and gives us more time for our longer-term strategy to ensure permanent protection of all 20 acres.
Focusing on Sprouts is also larger than just our local issue: Sprouts is a big-box, union-busting corporate chain supermarket that perpetuates industrial agricultural and food system injustices. Their greenwashed use of the “Farmer’s Market” term and imagery is an assault on our efforts to create a just local food system. Read more here.
With the leadership of Students for Engaged and Active Learning, there is now a strong student movement for a community-led research and education center at the Gill Tract. They have met with campus administrators all the way to the Chancellor, the Regents, and UC President Napolitano, all to no avail. Yesterday, they organized a cafe shut down for the UC statewide 96 Hours of Action Against Tuition Hikes and Police Violence to “fight back against the privatization of our land, labor, lives, and learning.”
Last night, Occupy the Farm and Students for Engaged and Active Learning joined together tonight to lovingly interrupt Raj Patel’s lecture for the Edible Education class to give the update about what is happening now at the farm. #GillTractDefense
Students and community members are continuing to build towards the spring UC Regent’s meeting on March 17th-19th. More information to come.
What can you do?
If we want to protect this land from corporate development, and create the community-led center for Agroecology and Food Justice, then we need to act now to defend this land.
- Please join Occupy the Farm for a #GillTractDefense Rally and Press Conference at the Sprouts “Farmer’s Market” in Walnut Creek on March 14th at 1pm.
- Call and Email Ted Frumkin, Sprouts’ Senior Vice President of BusinessDevelopment: firstname.lastname@example.org; 602-682-1556
- Tell him “DON’T BUILD YOUR NEW STORE ON THE GILL TRACT!” Make sure they know that if they continue with their plans to pave overpublic farmland you will not shop at any of their stores, or invest in their stock, and will encourage others to join you in the boycott!
- For more decision-makers at Sprouts and more information about the campaign, please see: http://www.boycottsprouts.com/#!contact/c1z0x
- Join our social media campaign. Take a photo of yourself with your definition of a farmer’s market, and tweet it to @sproutsfm Don’t pave over the Gill Tract for your greenwashed, union-busting supermarket! #BoycottSprouts#GillTractDefense #OccupyTheFarm
- Join the Emergency Bulldozer Response Team. We are trying to remain proactive in our strategy and response, but we are aware that the bulldozers may come any day to scrape away the top soil and lay concrete. We are preparing for active resistance on the land.