Occupiers take over UC-owned land for farm

Protesters erected signs and prepared their encampment after arriving at the UC-owned land in Albany.
Christopher Yee/Staff
Protesters erected signs and prepared their encampment after arriving at the UC-owned land in Albany.

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ALBANY, Calif — Members of the local community and Occupy movement broke into UC-owned research land in Albany on Sunday to farm the land before setting up tents and establishing an occupation.

Protesters from Occupy Cal, Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco cleared and tilled the ground and planted hundreds of vegetable starters before setting up tents on the Gill Tract, a plot of land at the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues intended for university research and experimentation.

Proposed plans would bring a Whole Foods Market and senior housing facility to a portion of land near the one the protesters were farming.

According to event organizer Gopal Dayaneni, the purpose of the  “Occupy the Farm” event was to show that the land should be used for the public good as opposed to for corporate expansion.

“This is the last, best agricultural land in the East Bay,” Dayaneni said. “Some research happens here, but the UC has been chopping it up and selling it off through the years, and it’s now been designated for capitalism.”

Participants began the day by marching from Ohlone Park in Berkeley to the location in Albany. About 200 people helped work the land throughout the day, Dayaneni said, roughly 15 of whom were members of Occupy Cal.

Dayaneni said the participants intended to camp overnight Sunday and continue farming Monday morning if they are not forced out by UCPD. Earlier in the day, UCPD officers announced that participants would be subject to citation or arrest if they remained on the land.

Under the California Education Code, people on UC campuses cannot bring tents or set up a campsite without authorization from a university official. When tents were erected on the UC Berkeley campus during the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest, at least 50 officers from UCPD and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department physically confronted the hundreds of protesters, making arrests, taking down the tents and allegedly injuring several people.

About 25 tents were set up on the farmland by 9:30 p.m, according to UC Berkeley senior and Occupy Cal member Navid Shaghaghi.

UC Berkeley alumna Anya Kamenskaya had conducted research on the land and proposed to the university in 2009 that it establish a farm to teach young students about farming and healthy food.

After graduating, Kamenskaya kept an eye on the land to see how it would be used and helped organize the Occupy event.

“The University of California is a public institution — the land is public land, so it belongs to all of us,” Kamenskaya said. “Many people in the East Bay have to depend on the corporate-industrial food complex for financial reasons, but we’re dedicated to teaching them how to grow their own food so they can put it to use in their individual communities.”

While looking out over the rows of collard greens and celery being planted, UC Berkeley graduate student and Occupy Cal member Ian Saxton said that this event was “the best of Occupy.”

“The Occupy movement brings together a diverse group of people with a wide range of perspectives, experiences and skill sets,” Saxton said. “That potential is being realized today.”

Christopher Yee covers Berkeley communities.

A previous version of this article incorrectly said the land the protesters are farming will be developed into a Whole Foods Market and a senior center. Instead, proposed plans would develop a plot of land near the area being farmed into the market and a senior housing facility.

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  • Adsahjh

    Can we bring in some illegals to replace these people?

  • Russell Bates

    “allegedly injuring several people”?

  • Brian


  • Gennie

    Farming is hard work.  I don’t see a lot of that happening.  Except for standing around, all the picture shows is two people talking on phones and one with a bull-horn.

    I hope UC lets them stay so we can see how things turn out over the summer.  I’ll bet the Occupy people lose interest in weeding and carrying water when the days get hotter.  Hard work doesn’t seem to be their thing.

    • Safety F. Sam

      You’re clearly an expert in on the subject of Occupy, gleaning so much from one still photograph. 
      How embarrassing for you.

      • Guest

        Darn, you sure showed me!

        • Guest

          Oh man I’m bad at commenting did not mean to reply here.

      •  I guess we should have spent more time gleaning info from those photos where the Occupy types fight with the cops, vandalize businesses, and riot with the police as well, right?

    • guest

      I’m an “Occupy person,” and I actually left this march early to volunteer at a community farm I’ve volunteered at for years.  I spend about five hours a week farming, and I know lots of other occupiers who have been involved in community gardening.  It’s not fair to characterize us as lazy or prone to just “lose interest” in work that involves physical discomfort, when we’re the people willing to camp out in tents or march for miles for our ideals (at least five of us who were there on Sunday had marched on the 99 Mile March from Oakland to Sacramento.  It was taxing, and yes, it was pretty damn hot in the central valley.)  I will freely admit that we do have a coordination problem, and making sure that people are reliably in the right place at the right time is challenging with a very loosely organized group.  But a lack of physical dedication is certainly not our problem…

      • Stan De San Diego

        If you want to farm so badly, how about ponying up some money to rent/lease/buy land instead of squatting?

      • Guest

        Read this: http://calibermag.org/articles/an-occupiers-dilemma/

  • Plaguerodent

    typical  leftist  approach ….  

  • Cshaff

    The area activists are in is not the location for a proposed senior housing/retail project.  A map of the area and project description are online at

  • I_h8_disqus

    I will admit that I am happy to see an Occupy effort that actually has a specific purpose with what appears to be a specific goal.  Previous Occupy efforts were pathetically unfocused, and that is why you don’t see much Occupy around any longer.  Of course, this might not even be an Occupy effort, but just have some Occupy people tagging along with a more focused group.

  • deetz100

    Well I’m part of the “community” and I don’t support these people.  They don’t speak for all of us.  Nobody elected them, and what they are doing is harmful to basic research (which is what is done there right now).  

    • CalUndergrad

      its a vacant lot. It’s basic research into how to keep fallow land while waiting for commercial land prices to rise! 

      • deetz100

        No, it’s not.  It’s fallow during the winter and used for research during the summer.

      • deetz100

        Don’t comment on what you don’t understand.

  • Guest

    Huh, lot a white people there.

    • Guest

      Haha, have you seen the demographic make-up of the Berkeley community? Not too surprising..

  • Guest


    • Berkeleyprotest

       Setting up land for the community is hard work, and I am glad leaders are doing it

      • Is that supposed to actually mean something, or are you hoping by posting your silly little utterances to give others the idea you actually have a clue what your Occupy heroes are hoping to accomplishment by squatting on some patch of dirt?

      • Stan De San Diego

         What “community”. Do you people actually have a plan other than to hope that you become such an annoyance that others bribe you merely to go away?

    •  More like eco-idiots…