Farmland is for farming. Public land is for public use.
Occupy the Farm – Take Back the Gill Tract is a direct action on public land to create a sustainable urban farm for all. By making this vision real, this occupation is also stopping the sale of this public agricultural land for the private development of for-profit housing and a high-end supermarket.
We believe the Occupy Movement is an opportunity to not just re-imagine what is possible, but to make it real through direct action. After decades of struggle at the Gill Tract, direct action has become our only option. So, on Earth Day, a few hundred people marched to the last high quality farmland in the urbanized East Bay and began farming. The plot is known as the Gill Tract and is located at the intersection of San Pablo Ave and Marin Ave in Albany, CA.
The Gill Tract is public land and is currently administered by the University of California (UC), a public land-grant university. The coalition farming the land includes people from all walks of life—families with children, neighbors, students, faculty, and activists. Fertile land in an urban center, these 13 acres can provide access to healthy food, sustainable livelihoods, and sustainable agriculture education for communities in Albany and the greater East Bay.
Despite being a uniquely valuable public asset and a potentially equally valuable educational and research opportunity for the UC, the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site into a hands-on educational farm for decades (see Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture, 1997 and GillTract.org, 2006). But the UC’s plans to privatize this unique public asset is only the latest in a string of privatization schemes. In fact, over the last several decades, the UC has increasingly shifted use of the Gill Tract away from sustainable agriculture and towards biotechnology with funding from corporations such as oil & gas giant BP and transnational pharmaceuticals corporation Novartis.
Frustrated that decades of dialogue have proven to be a mere “listening show,” many of these same local residents, students, and professors have united as Occupy the Farm to Take Back the Gill Tract. In many ways, this effort is a continuation of the community’s long struggle to put this public land into public use for sustainable urban agriculture. And more than simply growing food in an urban environment, these farmers endeavor to to empower communities to control their own resilient and just food systems—a concept and practice known globally as food sovereignty.
For too long, profit rather than community need, has driven land use in our cities. This has left tens of thousands of families without access to healthy fresh food or the ability to meet their own food needs, especially in working-class communities of color.
We're taking action to change this.
Here in the SF Bay Area, we have all we need to both fight for and manifest our vision of a just, healthy food system and a more equitable world. We have the farmers, educators, activists, writers, and organized communities. Now is the time to take a stand and spark urban land reclamation for meeting our own needs everywhere.
Currently, the University is taking police and legal action against the Farm. Now, more than ever, Occupy the Farm needs your support—not just to defend it in this moment, but to show our solidarity for the long-term vision to preserve this precious agricultural land for farming, and not development!
Please sign this petition to show the University that you support the vision of Occupy the Farm and that you call on them to stop police action so that the farmers may continue to farm!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT OCCUPY THE FARM:
-- Pass the petition on to your networks, friends, and family.
-- If you are an organization or group that wants to support: Endorse the collective letter of support and spread it through your networks. The letter is being signed by organizations, alliances and groups nation-wide. To sign on, please email email@example.com.
-- Show up & work hard: Everyone who believes that the best use of farmland is farming: please join in! Our work is our resistance, and the fruit of our labor creates our collective resilience. The Farm is located in Albany, on the corner of San Pablo Ave and Marin Ave.
-- Take more land, wherever you live: Wherever community needs are not being fulfilled and traditional avenues of change have failed, take space at the required scale to meet these needs. Occupy. Make Productive. Contest the Title.
-- Stay updated:
Facebook: Occupy the Farm
Sign up for text message alerts if you're local: Text "gilltractfarm" to 41411.
Email list: send a message to GillTractFarm@riseup.net with “listserve” in the subject line to be added to the email list.
-- Donate to the Farm: Click here to find a link to their online donations page, as well as a current list of needed materials.
-- Learn more: www.OccupyTheFarm.org
- Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, UC Berkeley
George W. Breslauer
- Dean, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources
J. Keith Gilless
I am writing to you in support of the Gill Tract Farmers Collective and those working to preserve the last large plot of class I agricultural land in the urbanized East Bay for community benefit. Specifically, I request:
1. That the University turn the water back on. Make municipal water at the Gill Tract available, so the farmers can continue to water the crops.
2. That the University allow unhindered access by the Farmer's Collective and larger community - both pedestrians and vehicles - to the Gill Tract. The farmers need access to care for the farm, including remediation of the contaminated soil on the remainder of the 13 acre Gill Tract. Work with the farmers to ensure preservation of the full 13 acres for farming to benefit the community in perpetuity.
3. That the researchers and the University refrain from the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizer, or plastic tarp in the soil on the farm in order to protect the organic food crops, the long-term health of the soil, the beehive, wildlife, as well as the neighbors, including children and families.
4. That the University and UCPD commit to not using police or chemical weapons against the farmers or community supporters. Additionally, I urge you to drop the lawsuit you have filed pertaining this on-going action.
The original vision in occupying this parcel of land, the last and best soil in the urban East Bay, was to preserve the entirety of the Gill Tract as agricultural land not only for a single growing season, but in perpetuity. The University of California should honor its duty as a public land-grant university and help bring about this vision in service to the East Bay communities and the people of California.
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