Occupy the Farm protesters break into UC-owned land, tend to crops

Danielle Lee/File
The Occupy the Farm encampment on April 16, 2012 included tents, a kitchen, various gardening supplies, and a chicken coop.

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ALBANY, Calif. — Occupy the Farm protesters broke into UC-owned research land in Albany for the fifth time on Sunday to tend to crops they planted there in the spring.

As UCPD monitored the gate, protesters cut a hole in the fence that surrounds the Gill Tract research land to let in about 30 protesters who had gathered there by noon to harvest.

“We have a long-term vision for the entire Gill Tract to be turned into a center for urban agriculture where people can learn about food justice education and do practical research on soil contamination,” said Anya Kamenskaya, an Occupy the Farm member and a UC Berkeley alumna.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said UC Berkeley does not have the resources to monitor the area full time but will continue considering whether to allow protesters to cultivate the land. The officers at the site today were told to monitor the protesters and make sure they did not pick or damage any of the produce grown by campus researchers, according to UCPD Sgt. Chris Olivet.

UCPD officers eventually opened the gate for a period of time, allowing protesters to enter and leave freely.

“At this point, we are discussing and evaluating possible options,” Mogulof said. “The key priority is protecting academic freedom and any research students have.”

Yet, Occupy the Farm member David Grefrath said he does not see any collaboration happening until the campus agrees to have people specializing in urban agriculture tend to the land in an environmentally sustainable way.

Protests from the Occupy the Farm members began in April after Albany City Council started considering a proposal that would allow the construction of a Whole Foods Market, a senior housing complex and a mixed retail center on a portion of land belonging to UC Berkeley’s University Village housing complex. The proposal was approved by the council in July, but construction has yet to begin.

Contact Alyssa Neumann at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Amruta Trivedi as the author of the article. In fact, Alyssa Neumann wrote the article.