1st harvest at occupy the farm
At 9:40 AM on July 7, 2012, urban farm activists re-entered the Gill Tract in Albany, CA to harvest crops planted during the 3-week occupation earlier this spring. The action came in response to UC and Albany City officials organizing an invite-only harvest party of the same crops. This date marks the first re-entry of urban farm activists on the land since UC Berkeley reasserted private control of Gill Tract through a police raid on May 14, 2012.
"The 'community inclusion' rhetoric put forth by UC Berkeley and the City of Albany has shown to be full of hot air. Since the Farm was raided, they have not had a single public discussion, yet feel they can railroad the development process through by calling an emergency council meeting on July 9th.” said Effie Rawlings, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and Occupy the Farm organizer.
The farmers say that the City and UC’s attempts to exclude the public are unacceptable, and that today’s action will not be the last, unless access to the land and decision making process becomes public.
“The involvement of the community in the occupation got the UC and City to discuss the preservation of this historic farmland." said Anya Kamenskaya, a long time advocate for agroecological farming at Gill Tract. "We're going to have to continue to push for transparency and inclusion every step of the way. The fact that the UC cancelled their invite-only work party and issued a statement yesterday admitting that the public deserves access to this farmland, shows that they are responding to us calling them out."
During the occupation, the farmer-activists sowed crops in over 70 two-hundred foot rows. Only 40 rows remain, after the rest were plowed under by UC Berkeley to make way for corn-based research.
"I'm bummed about the condition of the crops," said lifelong resident Corey Scher. "The weeds are choking everything out, and the plants have bolted from not being harvested. If we tended the whole way through, we would have yielded more."
Nearly a hundred people were harvesting crops and weeding rows planted during the occupation. Organizers maintain that public access to the land is the issue and that they will steward the Gill Tract as farmland indefinitely through direct action; if necessary.
Ashoka Finley, an Urban Agriculture teacher at Richmond High School, "want[s] the gates open for public access all the time. If deer are the issue then close the gates but don't lock them. We'll just keep on coming back."
Organizers are mobilizing again at 6 PM on Monday, July 9th, for the 'emergency' meeting of the Albany city council where the UC commercial development proposal of Gill Tract will be called into question.
By 10:50 AM, UC officials had yet to issue a response.
UPDATE 3:30 PM, July 7th 2012:
The harvest party ended near 1:00 PM with a consensus decision to share crops w/ local food justice organizations; Food Not Bombs, People's Grocery, and Phat Beets. Jars of pickling-cucumbers will also be distributed to Albany City Council members at the 'emergency' City Council meeting Monday July, 9th at 6 PM. A pickling demonstration will take place outside of the Albany City Council building at that time.
By 3:20 PM on July 7, 2012 UC Officials had yet to respond. No arrests were made.