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.