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.