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Occupy The Farm Protest Refuses To Leave Gill Tract, UC Berkeley-Owned Land (PHOTOS)

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Flickr: Steve Rhodes
Flickr: Steve Rhodes

University officials at UC Berkeley gave local protestors until Saturday to vacate a university-owned strip of land the occupy group has inhabited since April and transformed into a community farm.

The Occupy the Farm movement received a stern warning from UC Berkeley in an attempt to come to an agreement by Saturday night over the fate of Gill Tract in Albany. The university currently uses the land for agricultural research, and UC Berkeley officials have promised to start a public dialogue to find ways to continue the urban farming movement should the protestors leave peacefully.


Saturday passed, however, and a consensus was not reached nor did a single occupier budge from their position.

Albany Patch reported on Monday afternoon that Occupy the Farm finally reached a consensus. They agree to "break up the camp" if the university agrees to meet certain demands, including water being made available to Occupy the Farm, retaining the right to tend the crops and ensuring that officials refrain from using chemical pesticides.

Occupy the Farm states that they are reclaiming the land in order to grow healthy food to meet the needs of local communities.

“Urban plans are being shaped by a desire to create agricultural spaces that provide new modes of livelihood," Jeff Romm, professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at UC Berkeley and supporter of the Occupy movement, said in a statement. "Trends in the federal food bill, explicitly and not, have favored consumer wellbeing, access and equity, with consequent shifts of focus in the definition and execution of agriculture."

According to an open letter issued by the university, it is imperative that the occupiers leave the area so that students and faculty regain access to their research. From the school's perspective, the actions of Occupy the Farm are the equivalent to taking valuable, needed classrooms or laboratories away from students and faculty.

If protestors do not agree to leave, the university will take action “to ensure the research activities are not impended and the rule of law is maintained,” a statement issued by Berkeley officials read.

Occupiers have been on the land since April 22, Earth Day, when they declared the space a community farm. Since then, about 200 members of the occupy movement have planted thousands of different seeds.

The Occupy the Farm movement is largely in protest to the planned housing and commercial development near the site, at Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue.

“These are the last acres of Class One soil left in the urbanized East Bay. Ninety percent of the original land has been paved over and developed, irreverisibly contaminating the land… and UCB capital projects currently administors this land and has slated it for rezoning and redevelopment in 2013,” Occupy the Farm said in an open letter.

According to Berkeley officials, however, the 2004 University Village Master Plan includes a proposal to eventually convert the ten-acre agricultural research parcel to open recreational space for the community.

“The Gill Tract occupation creates a huge opportunity," Romm said. "After fifteen years of stonewall in the midst of sweeping social and ecological changes, the occupation should have come as no surprise to anyone. It does come at a time, though, when the university has become surrounded by community generated agricultural enterprise and has established its own capacity to respond in truly excellent fashion."

The standoff between university officials and Occupy the Farm remains stagnant, but they're not the only ones with a stake in the community farming initiative.

"It's arguably the most refreshing thing to happen in Albany, or even neighboring Berkeley, in a very long time," one Berkeley resident said to Occupy the Farm.

Take a look at images from their movement below and to be kept informed on all the details of the movement check out the Albany Patch:

Occupy the Farm
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Filed by Sarah Medina