Hundreds marched yesterday from the Earth Day rally in Berkeley, California to an empty tract of land to establish a new occupation. Immediately upon arrival, in a beautful dsplay of direct action, solidarity, and mutual aid, Occupiers began clearing and tilling the land for use as a community farm. Already, over 10,000 seeds have been planted on the occupied farm, complete with chickens. Police arrived and threatened everyone with arrest, even when told that many families, children, and journalists were present. Everyone able, especially Bay Area residents, are encouraged to show support! (See below for details.)
from Occupy Oakland Media:
This afternoon at 3 p.m., nearly 300 Albany residents entered a piece of property owned by the University of California called the Gill Tract, and took it over as a renegade urban farm. The protesters there are planning to remain at the property, and request donations of tents and other supplies to build their encampment.
The plot of land, at the corner of Buchanan Street and San Pablo Avenue directly across from the Albany Police Headquarters, is currently set to be sold off and privatized as a location for a new Whole Foods store. These Albany residents want the land, currently an open field, to be used as a community farm.
The Occupy movement has long stood in solidarity with farmers and agricultural workers who are leading the struggle for food justice. Groups like Occupy Vacant Lots in Philadelphia work toward creating community-based, community-controlled alternatives to the corporate food system. Guerrilla gardening is a direct attack on corporate control of land and food, two basic human rights that belong to the people and should not be used for the exclusive profit of greenwashed corporations like Monsanto or Whole Foods. By demonstrating we can freely take care of ourselves through direct action and mutual aid on our own terms, we are not only growing our own food – we are planting the seeds for a new, more just model for organizing the world.
See below for the full Occupy The Farms Press Release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 22, 2012
Occupy the Farm Activists Reclaim Prime Urban Agricultural Land in SF Bay Area
Contact: [email protected]
(Albany, Calif.), April 22, 2012 – Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.
For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot.
“For ten years people in Albany have tried to turn the Gill Tract into an Urban Farm and a more open space for the community. The people in the Bay Area deserve to use this treasure of land for an urban farm to help secure the future of our children,” explains Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, an Albany resident and public school teacher for 38 years.
Occupy the Farm seeks to address structural problems with health and inequalities in the Bay Area that stem from communities’ lack of access to food and land. Today’s action reclaims the Gill Tract to demonstrate and exercise the peoples’ right to use public space for the public good. This farm will serve as a hub for urban agriculture, a healthy and affordable food source for Bay Area residents and an educational center.
“Every piece of uncontaminated urban land needs to be farmed if we are to reclaim control over how food is grown, where it comes from, and who it goes to,” says Anya Kamenskaya, UC Berkeley alum and educator of urban agriculture. “We can farm underutilized spaces such as these to create alternatives to the corporate control of our food system.”
UC Berkeley has decided to privatize this unique public asset for commercial retail space, and, ironically, a high-end grocery store. This is only the latest in a string of privatization schemes. Over the last several decades, the university has increasingly shifted use of the Gill Tract away from sustainable agriculture and towards biotechnology with funding from corporations such as Novartis and BP.
Frustrated that traditional dialogue has fallen on deaf ears, many of these same local residents, students, and professors have united as Occupy the Farm to Take Back the Gill Tract. This group is working to empower communities to control their own resilient food systems for a stable and just future – a concept and practice known as food sovereignty.
Occupy the Farm is in solidarity with Via Campesina and the Movimiento Sin Tierra (Landless Workers Movement).
The Gill Tract is located at the Berkeley-Albany border, at the intersection of San Pablo Ave and Marin Ave.
Join us: Come dressed to work! We need people to help till the soil, plant seedlings, teach workshops, and more.
Donate/lend: We need shovels, rakes, pickaxes, rototillers, drip irrigation tape, gloves, hats, food, and anything else farming related!
Monetary donations can be sent through our website at www.takebackthetract.com