Albany encampment could be forced out by lack of resources

Occupy Cal and community members continue planting and tending to the farm they started on UC property.
Gracie Malley/Staff
Occupy Cal and community members continue planting and tending to the farm they started on UC property.

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ALBANY, Calif. — Though UCPD had not yet interfered with the encampment on UC-owned farmland in Albany as of Tuesday evening, the protesters may be forced away from their occupation by dwindling resources.

While some of the occupiers — who broke into the property, farmed it and established a camp Sunday — are there because they wanted to create a sustainable urban farm, others are protesting a proposed Whole Foods Market that could be built on a portion of the land south of the encampment.

While UCPD officers warned protesters on Sunday that they could face citation and arrest, there have not been any confrontations or arrests so far. Instead, campus administration has begun negotiating with the protesters, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“If you own something and I think I can put what you own to better use, that doesn’t give me a right to take what you own,” Mogulof said. “(But) our focus is on finding a way to bring this to a resolution in a way that allows the research to proceed without any violence or conflict.”

The university shut off the land’s irrigation system on Tuesday, and while local vendors and farms across the coast have shown support by donating food and water to the encampment, supplies are becoming more scarce, according to Anya Kamenskaya, an alumna of the campus College of Natural Resources.

Still, she emphasized that protesters will continue to weed and farm the settlement. As part of their goal of educating the local community about bioethics and food politics, they will also provide workshops to develop eco-agricultural skills for those who are interested as long as possible, she said.

Kamenskaya said the protesters are both “hopeful and realistic” about the possibility of the university granting the demonstrators’ request that the plot of land be used for pesticide-free, sustainable farming for the community.

But current campus agricultural research on the land requires that seeds be planted in the next few weeks, which could prove a difficult issue in the near future if the protesters remain.

“These folks may have a different vision for how the property should be utilized,” Mogulof said. “But the rights of the people who own the land and the rights of those who use the land — the researchers — are surely as valid as anyone else’s.”

Miguel Altieri, a campus professor of environmental science, policy and management, is conducting field research about developing sustainable farming in the plot and currently has broccoli planted there, according to his website.

Protesters cordoned off Altieri’s research, which Kamenskaya said aligns with the principles of the encampment. She said Altieri is expected to show up at the encampment Thursday.