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Occupy the Farm Activists Say That UC Berkeley Shut Off Their Water

Plans for Occupy the Farm began in late 2011.

On Monday afternoon at Gill Tract, more than an acre of land had been weeded, and planted, with more work underway by a group of activists who Sunday. 

One activist said the university had shut off water to the fields, and urged supporters to contact the chancellor's office to protest the decision. 

Earlier in the day, farmers on the Gill Tract said they're making plans to cultivate parts of the 15-acre lot for the long haul.

"This land has been underutilized and doesn't stand to benefit the people in our community," said Lesley Haddock, 20, a media liaison for the group Take Back the Tract.

"We want it to serve as a model for urban agriculture, in a time when people feel insecure about where their food comes from," Haddock said. 

Haddock said students, faculty and community members tried for 15 years to express their desires and dreams to the university for a community garden at the Gill Tract, but met with no success. 

"We're at the point of last resort," Haddock said. "We were not getting anywhere through traditional discourse. The field's been lying fallow since winter, and we're going to cultivate it and make it a hub for urban agriculture and education."

Haddock said those involved with Occupy the Farm were concerned about plans to pave over the Gill Tract for a parking lot and a Whole Foods market. 

Community Development Director Jeff Bond said the current agricultural land that's being occupied is not part of the project area where the . 

But the issue is somewhat muddied by the fact that the original Gill Tract land, 104 acres, has been divided and developed over time, leaving farm occupation organizers concerned about the future of the remaining open space. 

"The fact that it's been sectioned off," said Anya Kamenskaya, "history shows they've been eating away at it incrementally. We don't feel convinced the university is committed to keeping it for agricultural use." 

Kamenskaya said, even though the Whole Foods is not planned to be developed on the farm land, the group hopes to shut down the effort. 

Haddock said plans for Occupy the Farm began in late 2011, and that vegetable starts had been donated to the group from as far away as San Jose. Carrots, kale, broccoli and corn are among the crops being planted. 

Activists took down a  on Sunday, though tall fava bean stalks belonging to researcher Miguel Altieri remained standing. 

Haddock said she'd been stunned Sunday to see hundreds of people working the fields, many of whom had no prior farming experience. About 300 people attended Sunday's event, with about 60 who slept overnight, she said. 

The group could use donations, Haddock said, of supplies, money and a motorcycle engine "to turn into a generator to charge cell phones," as well as volunteers to help with farming.

Tuesday night, the related to the , and Haddock said there would likely be people there to speak on behalf of the occupation of the Gill Tract. 

For now, however, the focus is on the farm.

"For the next few days, we're expanding," she said. "Soon, all of this will be farm land."

FiatSlug April 24, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Shutting off the water is a peaceful solution to a situation that has the potential to become anything but peaceful. Indeed, Occupy the Farm’s rhetoric is confrontational with Lesley Haddock’s claim that, “We’re at the point of last resort.” This quote begs the question, how far is Occupy the Farm willing to escalate this confrontation? Occupy the Farm’s rhetoric underscores the belief that they alone understand the best uses of the Gill Tract and that this knowledge gives them the right to supersede the law and seize the property of others without due process. In sum, Occupy the Farm is only one step removed from V. I. Lenin and his merry band of thugs.
Dev April 24, 2012 at 04:17 PM
This is exceptional, level-headed insight. Two wrongs don't make a right.
chris April 24, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Kick them out. They are trespassing and destroying land not there's to deal with. If they want a farm then get a job, buy land and build a farm. If they aren't the owners they need to be put in jail freeloading punks
stymieblack April 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Who are you people commenting? Do you understand that UC wants to build a Whole Foods there over the best soil available? Do you understand that the community has been trying to use this "public" land (belonging to a public institution) for a long time? Where is your heart?
FiatSlug April 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
stymieblack wrote: "Who are you people commenting?" Response: I am a Berkeley resident and a taxpayer in the State of California. stymieblack wrote: "Do you understand that UC wants to build a Whole Foods there over the best soil available?" Response: No, my understanding is that UC and Whole Foods have an agreement to build a Whole Foods store on land bounded by Monroe St (south), San Pablo Ave (east), Village Creek (north) and Jackson St. (west). Presumably that's a very small portion of the Gill Tract, and certainly not the area currently squatted on by Occupy the Farm. stymieblack wrote: "Do you understand that the community has been trying to use this "public" land (belonging to a public institution) for a long time?" Response: One of the functions of a public institution (such as UC) is to make decisions about the use of land, improvements, and property. If Occupy the Farm wants to use the Gill Tract for urban farming, then maybe Occupy the Farm should buy the Gill Tract from UC. Absent ownership of the land, Occupy the Farm is in violation of the law and ethically and morally bankrupt with regard as to the current squatting at the Gill Tract. stymieblack wrote: "Where is your heart?" Response: Inside my chest the last I checked. But seriously, folks, Occupy the Farm has overreached, dramatically. More people are involved in urban farming, they're just using land they own or to which they have legal access.
Tinder April 24, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Dear protesters, It's not your land. It does not belong to you. You are trespassing. Go away and earn an honest living. The moment I see Chief Running Nose down there with your merry band, and you make such ridiculous arguments, you lose all credibility.
Tanya Jo Miller April 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Well the plot thickens, read this one: http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/scientists-study-plant-genetics-at-land-currently-being-occupied
Leilah April 26, 2012 at 01:30 AM
We tell young children to try to avert abusers and abductors by saying, "no, go away!" Well, I say the same to those trying to abuse the rights of the actual community -- that surrounding the Gill Tract -- and snatch the use of the property: "NO, GO AWAY!"
FiatSlug April 26, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Why is it incumbent upon UC to make available land for an urban farm? Is it not incumbent upon UC to use their resources to their best advantage in furtherance of their educational mission? This takes on added importance as Sacramento contributes less and less to higher education. Urban farms should be way down the list of priorities for the University of California. Developing sources of funding should be UC's top priority.

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