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Blog: Response to "Gill Tract Update: Talks Planned" Statement

I, too, grow lettuce, grapes, kale, strawberries and other veggies. My sentiments on the issue of an urban farm at the Gill Tract and the surrounding land slated for development.

I, too, grow lettuce, grapes, kale, strawberries and other veggies.

I am on the steering committee of Albany’s , Master Gardener, music lover, traveler and a lifelong public school teacher. I have spent many years as an activist around peace and justice issues. I have tried to defend the environment since I can remember and would like to, yet again, express my sentiments on the issue of an urban farm at the Gill Tract and the surrounding land slated for development.

After reading UC’s Wilton and Breslauer’s “” of May 11, I wonder if they have ever even heard of the many Albany residents speaking before the City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission multiple times for a community urban farm on and near the Gill Tract instead of massive development? We have been ignored, rebuffed and stonewalled in the so called “due democratic process” that UC and their one Albany resident glowingly claims to have been seeped in, for lo these many years. Where was the promise to your neighbors then?

I never once remember any official of UC, that we faced in hundreds of meetings during years of our farm groups speaking out, personally approaching us to offer any arbitration ideas, trying to resolve our issues with development, letting us know they heard us, offering to collaborate, discussing advanced UC urban agriculture programs or generating any concern for broad-based decision making with us.

So now it seems like the usual strategy of UC to present solutions of backpeddling and meetings on their own terms while blaming their mismanagement of the Gill Tract and its surrounding tillable land, on the forward thinking “occupiers” when that term includes activists, UC students, farmers, neighboring townspeople, supportive Albany residents, little children, chickens and the 15,000 plants you are killing by denying them water.

Hopefully one day you will wake up to a see the world that the rest of us view: The warming of the earth, people using tactics necessary to avoid food deserts, identifying and taking action on food security and soveigntry issues, and caring about our brothers and sisters being fed sustainable food.

Our future on the planet will either be saved by people taking action or squandered by those who hang on to the status quo.

I am so thankful for the visionary people of Occupy who stood up to give all of us a seat at the table of farming instead of cement and asphalt development.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael Barnes May 13, 2012 at 07:52 PM
BeReal4Once, You could be even more real if you used your real name. ;o) You should check out the city's Climate Action Plan: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=256 Your perspective is consistent with the CAP, and that respect, your opinion is not contrarian or politically incorrect. Urban agriculture is good, but the solutions lie at the regional level. And dense urban infill is good, too. There is a reason that in terms of per capita energy usage, on average the most efficient people in the U.S. live in Manhattan.
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 13, 2012 at 07:57 PM
So, the cost is essentially footed by WM, given that it will decrease the effort required to collect Albany trash, or, perhaps, assumed by Albany, but accompanied by a commensurate decrease in what WM expects to then charge Albany? (Or something like letting a company put solar panels on your roof, then paying them something less than what PG&E would have been charging, in a lease?) I'm surprised that the math works out ($4K a station, which is what their retail cost seems to be, seems a lot, and the time savings in hitting them less often than regular can doesn't seem like it'd be much).
Don Driscoll May 13, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I am BeReal4Once. I believe that dense urban housing is environmentally friendly, and I would like to see Albany provide more housing. I also believe, however, that local farming can benefit public health. I emailed Provost Breslauer Wednesday to suggest that part of Gill Tract be used for a local farm that would supplement Albany’s schools' fruit and vegetables. Well done, such a farm could use a small part of Gill Tract and encourage healthy eating. I think, however, that farming by occupiers would not have the same effect, given the occupiers’ propensity to alienate people. Thus, my views are quite moderate. However, I have watched the community and its response to Ulan. Much as I disagree with him, I respect his willingness to speak. Feeling more cautious than Ulan, I posted under “BeReal4Once.”
Ulan McKnight May 13, 2012 at 11:14 PM
It is in UC's interest to keep localities uninformed about their rights. UC has a legal obligation to work out all development details with Albany. We have rights. Period.  We have a right to ask for the ball fields to stay where they are. UC can disagree and negotiate with us, but we have a right to sit at the table.  We have a right to ask for community access to Class 1 soil. Part of what came out of the open forum I hosted was a realization that the farmland was open to the community before the 1998 Novartis deal. The researchers on the land used to host a popular 'Open House' where they encouraged children to participate in farming. We have a right to ask for this if we want.  But how is Albany supposed to know what it wants without an open process? I am advocating for just this type of discussion. I know Jackie is as well. I would hope even those who disagree with OTF can agree that we should all sit down together and talk about our vision for Albany's future. Please, let's ask UC to follow the law and engage Albany in open dialogue.
Ulan McKnight May 13, 2012 at 11:15 PM
We left the land Saturday. We are still watering the plants. That's it.
Ulan McKnight May 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I do not disagree with you but I wonder if you have any documentation to support your view.  Do a majority in Albany want to move the ball fields to farmland at a cost of over $1 million? Really. Please tell me how you come by this factoid.  Do a majority in Albany want a tiny community garden rather than a organic sustainable research center open to the community?  You are probably right, though. And I should probably stop asking for UC to abide by the law since I may have walked where I was forbidden. 
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 12:22 AM
UC is obligated to discuss all land effected by its development plans. Their 2004 (proposed) Master Plan discussions stated as a given that the ball fields had to move. This is illegal. (I believe it is worse to lie to an entire city than it is to trespass in order to stop this lie - which is why I support OTF.) If, as UC is attempting, Albany gives approval for development without discussing the remaining land, UC is in a strong position to assert it has final say over the ball fields and farmland on the grounds that is is fulfilling its "educational mission". This why it is so important that we discuss all of the land before Albany gives its approval.  I wonder if you agree with any of this.
Robert Marshall May 14, 2012 at 12:29 AM
When this whole thing started I suggested in my Patch blog that proponents of a farm should get an advisory measure on an election ballot. If your organization truly believes Albany should try to do something like acquire the Gill Tract, why not try and get it on the ballot so that ALL of Albany's registered voters gets a chance to a have a say? (or at least those that choose to vote).
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Ross, are you similarly OK with the continued refutation of your main objections to OTF? It seems like every time your argument is shown to be in error, you move on to the next thread.  OTF is off the land. We are watering plants. Nothing more. All of our meeting are held in public and all are invited to attend. All are now on public (no tesspassing!) property. Are you going to acknowledge out commitment to open dialogue? UC is obligated to discuss all land effected by their proposed development. Are you going to acknowledge that they have never held an open process to discuss a vision for all land? The "false claims" you mentioned have not been posted for weeks and never by anyone actively working with OTF. Care to acknowledge that? Many appear comfortable criticizing individuals who post here but few seem willing to debate. I agree with Jackie, I too was hoping for a more elevated discussion.
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 14, 2012 at 01:02 AM
"It seems like every time your argument is shown to be in error, you move on to the next thread." I'm not seeing any evidence that my arguments have been in error, though I do see some amazingly sloppy use of language by you, e.g., "OTF is off the land" does not mean "we are not trespassing," if you have people entering the property to water plants. California law doesn't confine trespassing to "are inhabiting a tent village," and UC, under the law, could charge all those folks passing through the property. You do seem have a Humpty-Dumptyesque approach to redefining words to fit your needs.
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Re: You do seem have a Humpty-Dumptyesque approach... Nice! Elevating the debate I see ;)  I did not say we were not trespassing. I said we are engaging in an act of civil disobedience by intentionally breaking the law (trespassing). We are no longer camping on the farmland.  UC claims that our past actions stopped research. They also said the researchers needed access to the fields no later than May 15. I have asked the three researchers I have spoken to if they can let me know if we are doing anything that is stopping their research. We were off the land before May 15. I actually am trying to debate with you. You make a point and I answer it. You may notice I just did that again.  I have now leveled 3 statements that, if you want to debate, may be easy to refute.  1) We are off the land and not interfering with any research.  2) UC is obligated to discuss development plans for the entire 20+ acres of remaining 'open space'. Thy have not done that.  3) None of the "false claims" you spoke of earlier have been made for weeks and never by anyone actively working with OTF.  Do you wish to dispute any of those? Do you agree with any or all of them?
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I think your vision of Albany would be well received by many. I hope you are given the chance to enter into a discussion with UC about their development plans.  Personally, I think we are presented with a lot of false choices. We do not have to choose between things nearly as often as people think. It does not have to be either/or. It often can be both. 
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Nice idea. There is No reason we can't do that AND have the legally required discussions with UC over their planned development.
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 02:00 AM
I am sorry you had that experience. I will go to the group tonight and try to discuss this.  I want to state clearly that I agree with you that the group can be frustrating. We are made up of many people who feel passionately about this issue (and many others issues).  There is never an excuse to be rude. There is never an excuse to be intimidating. I am very, very sorry you experienced this in Mother's Day. You obviously are a very good mom if for no other reason than you are trying to be reasonable with misbehaving people. Thank you again for all of your efforts. You are making the situation better. 
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 14, 2012 at 02:03 AM
"UC is obligated to discuss development plans for the entire 20+ acres of remaining 'open space'. Thy have not done that." Actually, if you believe that this is the case, wouldn't *you* (or the Occupiers) have an opportunity for redress in the courts? Please cite exactly where the obligation is spelled out, how UC isn't meeting it, and why you couldn't then sue them. (It's not sufficient to wave your arms and claim different definitions of "discuss," e.g., taking what might be established under the law as "inform affected parties," and turn it into "must seek unanimous approval of all and sundry.") You seem to be basing your argument on some authority, that UC is violating the law; why aren't the courts the most direct solution?
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 14, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Re #1, as others have pointed out, UC can claim that any presence of trespassers on the property is hindering its use of it, if only because of the liability risk. And, as others have pointed out, it's not at all clear that the Occupiers can control anyone who might like to act in their name. If I had to worry about insurance premiums and risk to my personnel, I'd require that all the trespassers be gone, and the gates secured. Re #3, this whole incident is only three weeks old today, so a claim of "for weeks" is rather specious, and as there's no way of telling who is and who isn't involved as an Occupier (apart from guessing from legal charges), there's no knowing if yours is a true statement.
Margaret Tong May 14, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Have you people no got jobs to go to?
Margaret Tong May 14, 2012 at 03:06 AM
How are you paying for your board and lodgings and health care and your daily needs? watering a few plants is surely no bringing an income sufficient to feed yourselves. Are you on the dole or trust funds and just too posh to be actually farming to earn your daily crust?
KJ May 14, 2012 at 03:12 AM
I'm so sorry Bea, you sound like a great mother. This type of behavior is what has concerned me all along. Even if the core OTF group is respectful of the community, they cannot reasonably expect the same behavior from the people who show up in response to an all-call occupy tweet. I have not experienced the direct harassment that you describe, but I've had some unsettling interactions. Hilarious that you were accused of breaking the law by removing the banner - did you tell them it was an act of civil disobedience? :-) Ulan, can you please talk to the group about cleaning up their trash as well?
Jon Meyers May 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
There's now a theme emerging about getting an advisory measure on an upcoming ballot - pretty much what I was getting at in the other thread here: http://albany.patch.com/articles/occupy-the-farm-agrees-to-remove-encampment-won-t-cede-control#comments_list We then have an opportunity for the residents of Albany to be heard together on the issue, and the City Council to have a clear mandate. Now I wonder how having that item on the ballot, and then getting the results would affect the motivations and actions of those actively participating in OTF. Do they stand down as Albany's residents step up this way? What if this initiative fails?
Margaret Tong May 14, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I have it now. Bunny Mellon fancies you and is paying for the seeds and haircuts.
Margaret Tong May 14, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Is the tract, in its present state, wheelchair accessible?
Dover May 14, 2012 at 03:35 AM
"I will go to the group tonight and try to discuss this." "Do or do not...there is no try." Yoda
Dover May 14, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Bea, I think Margaret is addressing the trespassers, not you. Please don't go there alone again. Come here and post first and I bet there are others (besides me) who will be happy to accompany you and help keep you safe.
Tatter Salad May 14, 2012 at 04:13 AM
It's difficult to respond to an Occupier's ramblings, when her thesis sentence is: "I grow lettuce, grapes, kale, strawberries and other veggies." So, I will start with a little education about dirt; when we noticed it, and when we began to truly understand it, and finally, why you should leave it alone. Durga, perhaps the most important goddess of the Hindus, was characterized in the 10th century with a large statue made of dirt/mud from the Ganges, and her heart was made of dirt from the floor of brothels. Brothel dirt was 'special stuff' in 10th century India. For a Christian view (equally strange) see: Genesis 38:7-10. Moving on 800 years, van Leeuwenhoek discovered 'animalculae’ in dirt with his microscope, – and suddenly dirt came alive! Dirt was no longer inert, but full of wriggling life. Dirt is a stage of life of every object and person in the world; and it's through science, not myths, that we may understand all those stages and uses. If we really understood all the facets regarding it, then NINE-million childhood deaths would not have occurred in 2010 due to starvation. I speak for the 9-million dead of that year and so does the Ag-department. They already have 4-years of 'sharing' areas of the tract... let THEM manage their dirt. Llives depend on it. You insult them, you insult Albany, and your insult may be taken to heart by children and companies that could help the Ag department better work their dirt in the future.
Margaret Tong May 14, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Bea, lass ( I am assuminng you are a lass) I was not at all speaking to you. It was the folks who have have the luxury of being able to spend time planting and watering. Somebody's got to be paying for their daily bread. It's always an internet posting problem. One does get confused if one does not address the comment specifically. Chums?
Ulan McKnight May 14, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Bea, I just returned from the meeting and we discussed you and the issue of the banners for a long time. One of the people who spoke with you offered his sincerest apologies for how everything went down. He was particularly saddened that you took his words as a criticism of your mothering - especially on Mother's Day. He volunteered to speak with you directly and apologize if you have any interest. No more banners will be placed accept near our encampment on San Pablo and near the light on Buchanan. Thank you again for all the energy you have put into this process. You have helped in many ways and your comments and participation are deeply appreciated.
Neo Serafimidis May 14, 2012 at 04:59 AM
@BeReal4Once There is room, and you are correct. No telling which article it was on, but I myself said several days ago that covering the tract with high-rises would save more genuine farmland from urban sprawl than the occupiers would ever figure out how to farm. This is part of the problem with this whole thing: the occupiers think they have The Truth about what's best for everyone on stone tablets. They won't accept any analysis or evidence that doesn't support their preordained view.
Dover May 14, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Bea, I am not connected to the trespassers or Ulan and I have no control over any of this, sorry. Believe you me, I wish I did. I would have sent them all home to their mommies and daddies with a firm spanking on April 22nd. I have attempted to engage some of them in conversation but I don't speak angry pothead so my attempts were futile. I wish I could say that I believe the signs will stay down but I don't. They thrive on attention, negative or otherwise, and the signs are an important part of that drive.
Jackie Hermes-Fletcher May 17, 2012 at 08:51 AM
It is likewise difficult to take someone seriously whose name is Tatter Salad, but let's talk soil. Each year 12 tons of carbon dioxide is removed from Albany's air because of the Gill Tract soil which captures the carbons that then stimulate plant growth. So keeping as much tillable soil as possible in an already densely populated area will help reduce CO2 to 25% by the year 2020, thus being in compliance with Albany's CAP. In other words, "Whole Food, Not Whole Foods". And as for the researchers, Tatter, folks can judge for themselves as to what they are doing by reading the article below. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/unclean-hands-at-the-gill-tract/Content?oid=3204032

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