UPDATE: The UC police raid that happened early this morning ended the occupation at the Gill Tract. The raid was overall without violence and caused minimal disturbance to the surrounding areas, including Ocean View Elementary School. UC will keep police presence at the Gill Tract as University scientists prepare the land for planting and research.
You can find more about this morning’s raid at the Albany Patch.
For the past week, a group of 50 or so people have been occupying the property in Albany, known as the Gill Tract, in an effort to promote local farming and sustainable food production. The group has been there since Earth Day, planting a multitude of vegetables and other crops to show methods of growing food that do not require petroleum.
The “occupation” was spurred by UC’s plan to build a Whole Foods and a senior housing facility near the currently occupied location.
Many of the “Occupy the Farm” participants have been camping out on the land in an effort to protect the space. Ryan Morgan, one of the leaders of the movement, was clear about the intentions of the campers: “It’s certainly not a camp as most people understand it. It’s a very work-based camp. People are not welcome if they’re not working hard to plant.” He did make note of the fact that they were inspired by the Occupy movement.
The group has run into legal troubles with their “Occupy the Farm” movement, as the land is owned by The Regents of the University of California and is closed to the public. UC police have dropped by the Gill Tract multiple times to inform the group that they have been trespassing and operating in violation of 602 of the California Penal Code.
Morgan characterized the community response as overwhelmingly positive, noting that families have been coming to visit the farm with their kids, and that people have been saying how beautiful the land looks.
Karina Tindol, Albany’s Community Engagement Specialist, says that the community reaction has been “mixed,” pointing out that there are residents who are opposed to the movement.
Tindol did comment that the group seems well organized, and indeed, that is certainly visible in what they have accomplished in a mere week’s work. Toward the entrance of the site, there’s a community kitchen with water jugs and plenty of organic food, and there’s even a medical tent for people who are in need of first aid. Additionally, it’s clearly stated in signs throughout the space that the entire farm is “a drug and alcohol free zone.”
Though they have only been farming the land for a little more than a week, the group has been meeting and organizing for food justice for roughly six months.
One of the main initiatives has been community outreach, which has also been fairly successful. This past weekend, the group held workshops in which UC professors and researches from the College of Natural Resources came and spoke in support. Among them was Miguel Altieri, an agro-ecology professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Hundreds of community members came through to see the workshops and help with planting, watering, and weeding.
On Sunday, the “Occupy the Farm” group held the grand opening of its Ladybug Children’s Garden, a keyhole spiral garden with strawberries and oranges, among other plants. The project has been conducted with assistance from neighbors and children in the community.
The City of Albany issued a press release about the situation a week ago, stating that they are aware of the situation and are asking for a peaceful resolution.
The group’s ultimate goal is to farm in the area as long as it takes and eventually turn the land over to the community. What will come of this movement in the next month? “That’s anybody’s guess,” says Tindol.
You can find more articles about the Gill Tract on the Albany Patch.