Community forum discusses future of Gill Tract

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Members of Occupy the Farm and Albany Farm Alliance held a community forum Wednesday evening to discuss the current state of the Gill Tract and plans for future mobilization.

About 70 members from the surrounding community gathered at the Albany Senior Center for the forum, the first since November. The forum focused on access and management, education, farming and research, and it encouraged attendees to provide feedback and suggestions.

“This farm is a space for our community to come together to not just talk about what we want, demand what we want, but to make what we want real,” said Effie Rawlings, an Occupy the Farm organizer and UC Berkeley alumna.

The group also held a discussion on race, class, gender, privilege and oppression within the movement to encourage diversity in involvement and results.

UC Berkeley students from We Dig the Farm, a new campus student group encouraging students to become involved in urban and sustainable farming, were also in attendance.

“I can’t think of much more important things we can be doing now than fostering relationships with our communities and our land bases and redefining the way that we relate with the land that we live on,” said Brooke Marino, a UC Berkeley junior and We Dig the Farm member.

Occupy the Farm protesters first occupied the Gill Tract in April to pressure the university into making the tract publicly accessible and not exclusive to UC Berkeley researchers. The campus transferred administrative authority of the Gill Tract to the College of Natural Resources in September.

In an open letter published last November, Dean of the College of Natural Resources J. Keith Gilless said that the campus would use the tract for a research program investigating food systems and food security.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with members of the Albany community and the Albany City Council as we move forward with the exciting work of developing a program that will benefit communities throughout the Bay Area, California and beyond,” he said in the letter.

Rawlings said Occupy the Farm has had success reaching out to faculty and researchers but has not had any communication with administration, which has promised more community involvement.

Andrea Guzman covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and on Twitter @guzmanandrea5.