Gill Tract occupiers are there to farm

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Many readers have undoubtedly heard about the recent Occupy the Farm action in Albany to “take back the tract.” As an undergraduate who has been involved in organizing the action, I would like to offer my personal experience, debunk a few misconceptions about the action and encourage fellow undergraduates to become involved in the farm.

For me, Occupy the Farm has been a wonderfully transformative experience. Watching a community come together on a piece of pristine, jeopardized land and planting the seeds of reclamation has been unspeakably powerful to witness and take part in. As one of the few undergraduates involved in the planning and organizing of the action, I have found it immensely gratifying to see the outpouring of community and campus support.

There has been much confusion about what portion of the Gill Tract is slated for development. While it is true that the proposed Whole Foods would not be built on the same land on which Occupy the Farm has recently planted, the entire remaining 10 acres of the tract is slated for some form of development. In addition to Whole Foods, the Master Plan of the university calls for the development of a senior center, a series of parking lots and little league baseball fields to be built over the last Class One agricultural soil left in the urbanized East Bay. Let me set something straight: Occupy the Farm is not opposed to senior centers or little league fields — we are opposed to the location these developments on precious agricultural soil.

Students, professors and community members have fought to use this amazing land for sustainable agriculture for more than two decades. The land is currently under the direction of UC Capital Projects, and the UC researchers are the land’s temporary tenants. Some of the research includes corn gene isolation, transgenic crop and biofuel research, all of which can be conducted on much smaller plots of land with less optimal soil.

Occupy the Farm draws much of its inspiration from the Occupy movement. The goal of this action is distinct and different from the broader movement because the encampment itself is not the end game. We are here to farm, not to camp.

The Gill Tract is an integral part of UC Berkeley’s legacy, and it would be a permanent, devastating blow if this remaining pristine land were developed. The soil is meant to produce sustenance, not to be suffocated by cement.

Last Wednesday night, the ASUC Senate unanimously voted in favor of a bill supporting Occupy the Farm. The following night, I was one of six representatives from the farm to meet with UC administrators. The administration was anxious to negotiate, claiming that its patience was running out and that we could either have negotiations or confrontations. At the meeting, we made it clear that we were simply there to gather the administrators’ concerns, bring them back to our constituencies, formulate concrete demands and then reconvene to begin negotiations.

Undergraduates, I implore you to become involved in this action in any way you can. The farm is located on the corner of San Pablo and Marin avenues in Albany, about three miles from campus. For those who cannot physically make it to the farm, there are many ways to assist from afar. Most crucially, at this point, would be to put pressure on the administration to turn the water back on! The fire hydrant has even been shut off. Beyond a moral or political standoff between us farmers and the powers that be, this is a safety hazard.

Please call the chancellor’s office and insist the water at the Gill Tract be turned back on. With water, the farm will produce organic produce to feed the community of the East Bay and the students of UC Berkeley. The chancellor’s office number is (510) 642-7464.

To conclude, Occupy the Farm is willing to negotiate with the administration and the researchers previously using the Gill Tract. I am sure a balance can be struck. After two decades of activism and planning, the community of Albany, students, professors and farmers have transformed the Gill Tract into a sustainable, organic farm with one week of labor. Sustainable agriculture is our future. I encourage all to visit your new university farm and help plant some justice.

Farmland is for farming.

Devin Murphy is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.

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  • Yay

    I don’t understand why the university should be expected to give the protest water. If someone showed up in my backyard, wanting to live there(without my permission), and he or she started demanding water, I’d do what UC should do: tell them to go to hell, and find their own H2O. I wouldn’t turn the faucet on even if the squatter offered to pay.

  • Jana1

    Hi Devin,
    Did you get the papers for the lawsuit the U.C. Regents just filed against you yet?

  • Nano1

    Hi Devin,
    Enjoy that restraining order the University filed against you!  I’ll be the first one to call police if I see your ugly, ignorant mug polluting our farmland!

    • Devin

      looking forward to it! if you see me on the farm, please introduce yourself to me, rather than resorting to cowardly rhetoric over the web!

      • Jana1

         I’d say that breaking into some one’s land when they are not looking hiding behind masks is pretty damn cowardly if you ask me.  Rejoice! This lawsuit is the perfect opportunity for you and your friends get to explain yourselves to a judge!

  • Nano1

    If you really are a student and have taken part in destroying some of the research currently going on at Gill, or are actively working to delay research that has regularly taken place there for over two decades, then you are nothing more than a terrorist and deserve to be on academic probation.  I will contact the University ombudsman to investigate your student status.   You are a loser of the highest order.

  • asf 

  • eileen

    Woah — the vituperative comments are breathtaking.  This article is calm, clear, thoughtful, and infused with joy  as well as determination.

    • Getsmart

       Interesting, I found the article to be misguided, delusional and full of errors, but I would expect no less from a self entitled lawbreaker who has no respect for property rights.

  • monkeybones

    This idiot left out several important points. First, Gill tract is not slated for any development.  Second, they have now made the land unusable for research by building structures and spreading their waste on the land.  The only way the researchers can use it now is to plow everything under.  Third, the only fire hydrant that has been turned off is the one INSIDE Gill tract, and at this point I’d say that the occupiers represent more of a hazard than a fire.  If they want to set a fire, then F them, let it burn.  Lets call these ‘activists’ what they really are: terrorists holding this valuable research land hostage.  Don’t negotiate with these people!

    • OTF

      Actually, the Gill Tract is indeed slated for development.  If you look at the UC’s 2004 Master Plan, the Gill Tract is slated for a Whole Foods, a senior center, little league fields, and unclassified “open space”. 

      I would also like to remind you that many of the people on the farm during any given day are families who live in the UC village, many of whom have very small children.  The children love playing and planting in the newly designed “Lady Bug” garden. 

      If you want to “let it burn”, you are saying you want to burn little children. This is evil.

      Come down to the farm. See what is going on. Perhaps your mind will change.

      • OTF, using kids as part of your trespassing is pretty clever and way wrong, but I guess that’s how you play it. 

      • Rgcu

         I work for the dept of Plant Bio, I’ve farmed that patch of land for over a decade.  What you idiots are doing is not farming.  You are building unstable structures, planting in a way that will result in a poor harvest, spreading waste around, disrupting wildlife, and treating our precious land like a dirty campsite.  The researchers working the land have prevented development by using the land to make important scientific discoveries and attract grant money.  Your misguided group delays our work and only makes U.C. want to get rid of the land even more.  Please go away and don’t come back. 

  • Arnie

    “the farm will produce organic produce to feed the community of the East Bay and the students of UC Berkeley”

    Incredibly ignorant.  Five acres of _intensively_ farmed Iowa farmland, the most productive farms on the planet, would grow 6M Calories of corn, less than it would take to feed _one_ lunch to the students of Berkeley.  They’re not feeding anybody, they’re just garnishing.

    • A student farmer

      Have you made it down to the farm? If you see it, you may change your mind. The land might not be able to completely sustain anyone, but the real issue in the East Bay is that hundreds of families do not have access to fresh produce. This land can help provide fruits and vegetables for those families. 

      Additionally, this land is an incredible opportunity for urban agriculture experimentation. The farmland in this country is rapidly diminishing due to development and urbanization. Urban farming is the way of the future, and it cannot all be done in small backyard gardens. This plot of land could lead to techniques that would be invaluable to the future of our food system. 

      I would just encourage you to go down and see it before you start dissing its capabilities. It is really quite incredible. 

      • Anon

         There is plenty of available fresh produce at stores within walking distance of the Gill Tract.

        If you are really concerned about solving the problem of food deserts, then set up your farm in West Oakland or Fruitvale.

      • Stan De San Diego

        > “Have you made it down to the farm? If you see it, you
        > may change your mind. The land might not be able to
        > completely sustain anyone, but the real issue in the
        > East Bay is that hundreds of families do not
        > have access to fresh produce.”

        You obviously have no ideas what is sold inside those big building with signs that read “Safeway”, “Whole Foods”, and “Trader Joe’s”.

  • [Please call the chancellor’s office and insist the water at the Gill Tract be turned back on.]

    You want to play farmer, then learn what it’s like to be a REAL farmer, instead of being a filthy hippie playing Che Guevara out in some vacant lot in Albany.

    Dig your own well, asshole. Nobody owes you free water.

    • A student farmer

      You are right. They do not owe anyone free water. But the fire hydrant they turned off services the elementary school and the University Village. 

      By turning off the water, they have not stopped or halted the farm in any way. They are just putting people in unnecessary danger.

    • OTF

      The Farmers at the Gill Tract are NOT asking for free water.  On the contrary, the water bill has been switched under one the farmers, and the collective is perfectly willing to pay the water bill, which is actually under the East Bay Mud Co. 

      I encourage you to read history, and understand the “insults” you hurl.  I seriously doubt if you could explain anything about Che Guevara.  If you could, I’m sure you would not associate a land occupation with the Cuban Revolution. 

      Secondly, the Farmers at the Gill Tract may very well dig their own well.  Which I’m sure would draw further criticism from you.

      Go to the farm, see what is being done. Perhaps your mind will change.  For now, it seems you have plenty of contempt prior to investigation.

      • Stan De San Diego

         I know who Che Guevara was. He was a sociopathic murderer who apparently has found great post-mortem popularity on the T-shirts of ignorant college children and other pseudo-bohemian trendies. In fact, Nikita Kruschev encouraged Castro to get rid of Che on the grounds that he was giving communism a bad name in the international press.

        • albanyresident

          For sure. And Occupy the Farm has in no way aligned themselves with communism or Che.  You should study the history of horizontal social organizations before you start throwing out buzzwords like “communism”.  If you knew your history, or if you knew ANYTHING about this action, you would undertand that the Farmers are not communists.

          • Stan De San Diego

             “For sure. And Occupy the Farm has in no way aligned themselves with communism or Che. ”

            Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, 98% statistical probability it’s within 3 standard deviations of being a duck.