Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
We are the 99 percent

Occupy the Farm Activists Reclaim Prime Urban Agricultural Land in SF Bay Area

Posted 12 years ago on April 23, 2012, 4:40 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

occupy the farms

Hundreds marched yesterday from the Earth Day rally in Berkeley, California to an empty tract of land to establish a new occupation. Immediately upon arrival, in a beautful dsplay of direct action, solidarity, and mutual aid, Occupiers began clearing and tilling the land for use as a community farm. Already, over 10,000 seeds have been planted on the occupied farm, complete with chickens. Police arrived and threatened everyone with arrest, even when told that many families, children, and journalists were present. Everyone able, especially Bay Area residents, are encouraged to show support! (See below for details.)

from Occupy Oakland Media:

This afternoon at 3 p.m., nearly 300 Albany residents entered a piece of property owned by the University of California called the Gill Tract, and took it over as a renegade urban farm. The protesters there are planning to remain at the property, and request donations of tents and other supplies to build their encampment.

The plot of land, at the corner of Buchanan Street and San Pablo Avenue directly across from the Albany Police Headquarters, is currently set to be sold off and privatized as a location for a new Whole Foods store. These Albany residents want the land, currently an open field, to be used as a community farm.

The Occupy movement has long stood in solidarity with farmers and agricultural workers who are leading the struggle for food justice. Groups like Occupy Vacant Lots in Philadelphia work toward creating community-based, community-controlled alternatives to the corporate food system. Guerrilla gardening is a direct attack on corporate control of land and food, two basic human rights that belong to the people and should not be used for the exclusive profit of greenwashed corporations like Monsanto or Whole Foods. By demonstrating we can freely take care of ourselves through direct action and mutual aid on our own terms, we are not only growing our own food - we are planting the seeds for a new, more just model for organizing the world.

See below for the full Occupy The Farms Press Release.

April 22, 2012

Occupy the Farm Activists Reclaim Prime Urban Agricultural Land in SF Bay Area

Contact: GillTractFarm@riseup.net

(Albany, Calif.), April 22, 2012 – Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.

For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot.

“For ten years people in Albany have tried to turn the Gill Tract into an Urban Farm and a more open space for the community. The people in the Bay Area deserve to use this treasure of land for an urban farm to help secure the future of our children,” explains Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, an Albany resident and public school teacher for 38 years.

Occupy the Farm seeks to address structural problems with health and inequalities in the Bay Area that stem from communities’ lack of access to food and land. Today’s action reclaims the Gill Tract to demonstrate and exercise the peoples’ right to use public space for the public good. This farm will serve as a hub for urban agriculture, a healthy and affordable food source for Bay Area residents and an educational center.

“Every piece of uncontaminated urban land needs to be farmed if we are to reclaim control over how food is grown, where it comes from, and who it goes to,” says Anya Kamenskaya, UC Berkeley alum and educator of urban agriculture. “We can farm underutilized spaces such as these to create alternatives to the corporate control of our food system.”

UC Berkeley has decided to privatize this unique public asset for commercial retail space, and, ironically, a high-end grocery store. This is only the latest in a string of privatization schemes. Over the last several decades, the university has increasingly shifted use of the Gill Tract away from sustainable agriculture and towards biotechnology with funding from corporations such as Novartis and BP.

Frustrated that traditional dialogue has fallen on deaf ears, many of these same local residents, students, and professors have united as Occupy the Farm to Take Back the Gill Tract. This group is working to empower communities to control their own resilient food systems for a stable and just future – a concept and practice known as food sovereignty.

Occupy the Farm is in solidarity with Via Campesina and the Movimiento Sin Tierra (Landless Workers Movement).

The Gill Tract is located at the Berkeley-Albany border, at the intersection of San Pablo Ave and Marin Ave.

  • Join us: Come dressed to work! We need people to help till the soil, plant seedlings, teach workshops, and more.

  • Donate/lend: We need shovels, rakes, pickaxes, rototillers, drip irrigation tape, gloves, hats, food, and anything else farming related!

  • Monetary donations can be sent through our website at www.takebackthetract.com



Read the Rules
[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 12 years ago

I have noticed over the last 5 decades (apparently alone) that all over the country we have consistently taken the best, the flattest, most productive land and built houses and high rise offices, shopping malls, and apartment buildings and such all over it. Then we try to grow food on steep rocky hills, deserts, flood plains etc.where it is the most difficult, the highest risk and lowest yield. This, they say is the free market at work. I believe that it is. Trying to sneak back in and wedge a few plants in the cracks in the concrete might be admirable, in some sense, (Don Quixote?) but in the big picture, it just looks like more of the same stupidity.

Why am I wrong? If you just keep doing what you did, you are going to get what you got.

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 12 years ago

And the last ten or twenty have been the worst. Here in the Midwest, I watched as countless farms were bought out just to be turned into more cookie-cutter urban sprawl neighborhoods. It's disgusting. One benefit of the housing bubble and financial crisis (maybe the only one) was, at least it slowed the damage down considerably. Temporarily.

[-] 3 points by brightonsage (4494) 12 years ago

yeah, I have been telling our town that this is a great time to take another look at our Master Plan. Maybe it is time to get better rather than bigger?

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 12 years ago

Absolutely. But apparently, the 'Powers that Be' didn't get the memo. That upcoming Rio summit is a perfect example. Massive wealth redistribution on the backs of the consumer (increased prices for food, housing and power) and the plan to usher in a world currency and fire up the presses to print the trillions of dollars needed to "reshape the world" under the guise of "sustainability" and a transfer to a "green economy."

[-] 3 points by brightonsage (4494) 12 years ago

Our town was claiming sustainability until I explained it to them. But, next week I have been invited to a "visioning meeting" which is a part of the process.

I moved here from a town that grew from a few thousand to about 70,000 (including unincorporated area just outside the city limits over 10 years.) One thing I know for sure, growth doesn't solve problems, it magnifies them.


[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 12 years ago

Yeah, I know who he is, a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado. I am about 25 miles away. It is like compound interest. And on a global level we have about 40% more population than the planet can sustain, as I recall.

But in a little town, the issue is what do we do about economic development? My suggestion is that businesses really don't need more people, because when you get them you get more competitors and what you are left with is more traffic congestion, over-crowed schools etc. Every community faces this question and the way they answer it has got us to 350 million people who earn less, if they can find a job at all and an infrastructure that is five sizes too small and has all of the knees and elbows worn out.

[-] 2 points by aaronparr (597) 12 years ago

Good work. This is the right kind of action to take. Stick it out and prevent another Whole Pay Check from being built. These stores aren't in their neighborhoods for the long term anyway. They only chase a particularly narrow segment of the market, and will abandon an area as incomes decline. But once that field is developed it is gone.

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 12 years ago

Awesome. Just awesome.

[-] 2 points by brideofsirius (2) 12 years ago

This is a bold, brilliant project. My fantasy is to dig up the streets, block by block, replacing each with a community garden. Neighborhoods could be motivated by having 'most fantastic garden' competitions!

[-] 2 points by Marchelo (67) 12 years ago

This is fantastic news and a brilliant move for Occupiers! Well done to all involved- this action strikes right at the heart of so many issues we have been talking about for months. I hope this is an example of things to come!

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 12 years ago


Voltaire "tend your own garden"



[-] 1 points by ogrdanny (73) from Grand Rapids Charter Township, MI 12 years ago

Eight very long months...you have no idea.

[-] 1 points by plainscott (79) from Bowling Green, KY 12 years ago

Gee whiz, right-wing fascist, corporate boot-lickers out there: I thought all the folks involved in Occupy were nothing but lazy, mooching commie hippies looking for a free handout! That conservative narrative sure doesn't jibe with Occupiers tilling the soil, planting seeds, and doing other backbreaking work in the fields to grow food! How do you reconcile the disconnect between your characterization and what we're seeing here now? Hmmm????


[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

It is called giving a visual actual example of an area of concern. Food the food chain, corporate involvement in the food chain. Sorry someone should probably have put up a sign to explain it to you.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 12 years ago

Perhaps, just seems more like plainscott made the fascists' point without meaning to. You may be working toward a society where this is acceptable, but you're not there yet. Good intentions not withstanding, it's simple trespass.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Also works to get people asking questions.

And is it truly trespass if the land is public and has not been slated for specific posted use? As I believe the property in question was just empty land. Not a park or reserve or anything.

I suppose I could be mistaken in that. If you have something that shows different please share as that should be known and debated on the basis of public good.


[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Well of coarse you would, thinking creatively and analyzing of situations or messages are not taught in troll school. Critical thinking if you were confused by the preceding.

[-] 1 points by permabanker (1) 12 years ago

This is what its all about folks!!

See video:


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

I love it. Public land for public use/benefit.

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

Careful, they'll call you a comunist! LOL!

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Also funny.

What has been in the past a traditional attack on someone when they were being called the shorthand equivalent of communist? You are RED or you are a RED.

I find that funny because of red states and blue states in denoting political influence.

Have the repubs overlooked (?) the historic slur/association? Kind of like tea-baggers and tea-party is there a Freudian block as to common associations/relations?


[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

The misguided trolls? They already have. What do I care what the blind marchers of the greedy corrupt say.


[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

Damned straight! When sanity and humanity are derided by every name in the book, it's time for the sane to fight back!

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Wow what an opening episode for Frontline- can't wait for the reactions or next week episode. WOW.

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

Great! Haven't seen it yet - I have a TV, but it only works with DVDs, sometimes. LOL! I'll have to catch it on the net when it's available. Can't wait!

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Check the PBS site for Frontline. Since the episode has already aired it might be available for on-line review/viewing tomorrow.

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

I just saw it. It was very good. I can't help seeing the picture above and thinking that we need to take back this land. Why should we be crowded into little boxes that we can never pay for, when we have such an expansive, verdant, land - when thousands of miles of the best growing land on earth have been paved over. A lot us us don't remember what a real life was. We need to get in touch with the earth again.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Already? Wow that was quick. Good deal.

On your follow-up comment - I can not and would not argue with that.

[-] 1 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

:) We really need to re-think things again. What really entails a good life? How would true social justice feel? How can we achieve it?

I think real democracy has yet to be achieved, but we are getting there slowly, one step at a time.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 12 years ago

Those singular steps will get us there as long as we do not give up. As for the 1st part of your comment I agree we absolutely need to rethink. The rest I will not get into tonight. Time for me to fall over for a few hours.

Later-on {:-])

[-] 1 points by GypsyKing (8708) 12 years ago

Thanks, DKA. Oh, and the second episode of Frontline appears to already be available online, so if you want, you won't have to wait to see it tomorrow :)