UC Berkeley professor and community members begin research at Gill Tract

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After months of conflict regarding the usage of the Gill Tract, community members and UC Berkeley professor Miguel Altieri came together Saturday to begin a community participatory research project testing agroecological methods.

In collaboration with several community groups, including Occupy the Farm, Altieri and some of his students will lead a research project designed to look into how to maximize the amount of vegetation grown on a small plot of land.

According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof, Altieri’s project is not taking place on the area of campus-owned land that had been slated for development but on the area that is traditionally used for research.

Occupy the Farm members have previously planted crops and occupied the space, protesting the campus’s decision to develop the land, most recently this past May.

However, in a press release, Occupy the Farm member Lesley Haddock said that the organization was excited to be working with the university on this project.

“Occupy the Farm is excited about the opportunity this presents for the University to collaborate with members of the broader community, and to promote inclusive participatory research models for food production and agroecology,” Haddock said in the release.

For the project, 40 community participants are separated into groups of four people responsible for managing a small plot of land on which they plant different combinations of crops. The groups will spend time visiting the other plots, comparing their strategies and sharing their experiences with each other.

Participants from the community will only have access to the Gill Tract when Altieri or his students are there.

Altieri said he developed the project because he supports the causes of community members and their objective of preserving the land. In October, Altieri plans to invite community members, students and UC administrators to attend a field day at the Gill Tract.

“This activity can benefit the conversation between the community and administration in regard to the Gill Tract,” Altieri said.

J. Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources, said that Altieri’s project is within the guidelines for conducting research involving the community.

“We have already begun a community engagement process under the leadership of collaborative extension specialist Christy Getz, and what Miguel is trying to do is in line with our goals,” Gilless said.

The project will continue into November.

Contact Elise Lagana-Aliotti at [email protected]