Bay Area

Cal Razes Latest Occupy the Farm Greens at Gill Tract

Tracey Taylor/Berkeleyside

Occupy the Farm protestors on the Gill Tract.

The latest development in the battle over the future of a hotly contested research field in Albany took place Friday when the UC Berkeley dean who oversees the land released a new open letter about his goals for the stewardship of the space.

Urban farming activists recently broke into the fenced-off Gill Tract field to plant about 2,000 winter greens. They announced plans to continue working part of the field in the coming months, in conjunction with hosting several community forums and vegetable distributions. In October, they held a pumpkin carving event, and last week they organized a forum in North Oakland to “discuss how we can work together to strengthen local struggles for land, food, and power — at the Gill Tract Farm and beyond.”

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said, as of Friday evening via email, that “The occupy crops are no longer there."

The activists’ recent farming efforts have clashed with stated university plans to plant a cover crop over the entire Gill Tract to replenish the soil.

In the university’s open letter, which appears below in full, Dean Keith Gilless of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, said activists elected to plant crops at the Gill Tract after his announcement in September that “the growing grounds would need to be planted with a cover crop this winter.”

Wrote Gilless: “in recent weeks they have continued with their unauthorized planting. I truly regret that they chose to spend their time and efforts on planting that we have had to disc under, rather than seek ways to work with my college and the community.”

(“Disc under” refers to a farming process in which soil is broken up and old crops are chopped up to make land easier to plow.)

In recent years, the field has largely been off-limits to the public, though various groups have repeatedly asked the university to open up the space to the broader community.

Activists calling themselves Occupy the Farm took over the land in April and planted vegetables inside the gated research field, arguing that the space would be better used as a community garden. They occupied the space for weeks before ultimately returning control of the land to the university.

Since then, activists have continued to break into the field to tend their crops, harvest vegetables, and hold community events designed to raise awareness about their dreams for the future of the land.

The open letter released Friday evening by the university appears below in full. Berkeleyside will continue to follow this story.

Source: Berkeleyside []

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