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Farmers Collective: 'We Will Break Up the Camp' if UC Meets Demands

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. See all the Gill Tract stories at http://patch.com/bvbHo.

[Occupy the Farm posted this item on its website at about 7:10 p.m. Monday. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.]

Gill Tract Farmers Collective Responds to UC Ultimatum

The Gill Tract Farmers Collective looks forward to addressing our mutual concerns around the unimpeded work of the Gill Tract researchers. We understand that the nature of the genetic research necessitates extra precautions for the security of those experiments. 

When the University presents a concrete proposal that satisfies the following concerns we will break up the camp so that the researchers have access to their plots:

1. That municipal water at the Gill Tract be made available to us.

2. That the Farmer's Collective and larger community have access to the field in order that we may:

a. Tend to the crops we have planted on the East side of the field.

b. Maintain the Children's garden in the northwest corner of the tract, as well as the BASIL seed bank homecoming site on the edge of the west field.

3. That in order to protect the organic food crops, the long-term health of the soil, the beehive, as well as the neighbors, including children and families, the researchers/the University refrain from the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizer or plastic tarp in the soil on the farm.

We continue to be willing to facilitate this transition process for the researchers, such as the construction of new fences or gates that would allow for our access to the locations referenced in Condition 2, so long as these conditions are met.

We look forward to further discussion around how to make this a truly collaborative process for all stakeholders in the Gill Tract. This includes not only the Albany community, the Gill Tract Farmer's Collective, and UC Berkeley, but also the residents of the greater East Bay. Because of its unique location in a thriving urban area, any future use of the Gill Tract has an immediate impact on East Bay food sovereignty, equity, and access issues. We hope that more consideration for the time that is necessary to facilitate an open community dialogue is respected and that the UC ceases to levy ultimatums such as the one issued on Friday, May 4th, 2012.

UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.

Just before 4:30 p.m., after several rounds of proposals and amendments, members of the Occupy the Farm "farmers collective" reached an agreement about how to respond to demands from the University of California, Berkeley, that the group stop camping at the Gill Tract.

Anya Kamenskaya, one of the group's media representatives, said she couldn't yet release the content of the statement pending review by the activists' attorney.

She said the plan was still to get the statement to the university Monday. 

Kamenskaya estimated that about 30 people contributed to the Monday afternoon discussion about how to respond to the university. 

She said the group had managed to reach a 100 percent consensus about the final statement, which she said will be released to the media and posted on the Occupy the Farm website.

She said, two weeks into the occupation of the Gill Tract, spirits had been buoyed by the farming activities and "so much community support."

Kamenskaya said that, although she is hopeful that an agreement can be reached with the university, "it remains to be seen." 

She cited instances where she said the university had acted "in bad faith" and left the bargaining table (after community groups had pushed, in the past, for the creation of urban farm programs at the Gill Tract).

Kamenskaya said members of Occupy the Farm plan to attend tonight's City Council meeting to raise awareness about their efforts. 

Check back later for updates to this story. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. 

The original story, below, was posted at 1:38 p.m. on May 7.

A group of urban farming activists, who took over University of California-owned research land in April, is expected to respond later this afternoon to  in which officials asked the group to leave. 

In return for vacating the property, where activists have been camping since April 22, officials from the University of California at Berkeley said they would seek to find a way to share the agricultural land for the current growing season, and also investigate the possibility of more urban farming activities at Albany's in the future.

Anya Kamenskaya of Occupy the Farm said Monday that, following the university's letter, which asked for a response by midnight Saturday, the group's legal counsel told the university to expect a response Monday. 

Kamenskaya said a "working group" that is part of Occupy the Farm has crafted a response to the university, and that this response will be discussed from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday in a private meeting at the Gill Tract for members of the farmers' collective.

(The activists have a number of working groups to allow people to participate in Occupy the Farm activities in a range of ways.)

After the meeting, said Kamenskaya, the group will issue a statement to the university and to members of the media to outline the group's position. 

She said she expected 40-50 people to participate in the discussion. A 100 percent consensus must be reached for the group to accept the university's proposal. 

She added that, over the weekend, there were a number of workshops and music performances at the Gill Tract. 

"The community support was great, especially in terms of water," Kamenskaya said. Neighbors and other area residents have been providing water for the crops after the university shortly after the April 22 occupation.

She said, over the weekend, she also fielded numerous questions from members of the media who were confused by a news report about last week's letter from the university, and interpreted it as an order to evacuate by midnight Saturday. 

"They thought it called for us to 'leave the land or else,'" she said. She encouraged people to for a more accurate understanding. (The university had simply been asking for a response by midnight Saturday, though they said, also, that the on-site camping must end soon.)

THE UNIVERSITY PERSPECTIVE

Dan Mogulof, executive director of the university's Office of Public Affairs, said Monday that "the window is closing" for a "peaceful and voluntary end to the encampment."

The land must be prepared for that is scheduled to begin June 1. The fields historically have been prepared for the work in May.

"As we've stated in numerous occasions in public and in writing, we must honor our commitment to faculty and students, and we must honor our commitment to our researchers," he said.

Mogulof said, in addition to the public letter the university posted last week, officials also provided Occupy the Farm's attorney with a private letter that included "detailed information" about what the process to share the land this season, and potentially develop urban farming activities on the site, would look like.

He said the letter explained what it would mean for urban farming activities to be community-based, and how the activists would have a seat at the table for discussions about it. 

"But it also said that the table must also include members of the community in Albany who have been involved in a planning and analysis process for years," Mogulof added. "We're not going to disenfranchise the community of Albany."

He said the group responded to the letter by saying it needed more time to weigh the options.

"The only response we received, on Saturday, was a note saying there'd be a response on Monday," said Mogulof. "We were really disappointed about that because time is so short. The door's open but the clock is ticking." 

He said he heard earlier Monday from one member of Occupy the Farm who said the group would meet Monday afternoon and would send a response through its attorney later in the day. 

"We've been really patient up until now," he said. "We engaged in continuous dialogue. has been down there on numerous occasions. We still believe there can be a peaceful and voluntary end to the tent city, but we will have to wait and see what they come up with. We hope they elect to take the path of collaboration and not confrontation."

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Emilie Raguso May 09, 2012 at 08:01 AM
You're correct. She said, paraphrased that "I plan to work w/ the city manager to formulate a resolution, work w/ Albany schools, and more, in support of an urban farm." It wasn't clear if she meant she wanted to suppor the current occupy the farm activities, or more generally urban farming activities on the site in the future. I do plan to follow up with her on this.
Amy Marsh May 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Great Animal Farm reference, Kayko!
Katie May 09, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I think I must be missing something…here in Boise Idaho we have vacant plots of ground that has been donated to the community for people to use for gardening. Many of these gardeners are from the refugee population and they grow all kinds of vegetables many native of their homelands that are not yet available in the states. Some of these vegetables are a main staple in their diets. These community gardens are an opportunity to share the diverse culture, ideals and recopies of the world. We are native Idahoans and have lived here for nearly 60 years and have always gardened, we were taught to pay it forward and share the bounty.
Katie May 09, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I think I must be missing something…here in Boise Idaho we have vacant plots of ground that has been donated to the community for people to use for gardening. Many of these gardeners are from the refugee population and they grow all kinds of vegetables many native of their homelands that are not yet available in the states. Some of these vegetables are a main staple in their diets. These community gardens are an opportunity to share the diverse culture, ideals and recopies of the world. We are native Idahoans and have lived here for nearly 60 years and have always gardened, we were taught to pay it forward and share the bounty.
Ellen Hershey May 10, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Hi, Katie from Boise, Here in Albany, California, we also have a community garden, run by the City, for Albany residents who live in apartments and don't have a place to garden of their own. It has 22 plots and a short waiting list. The City's new Climate Action Plan calls for developing more community gardens. Also, the University's plan for the Gill Tract, being protested by the Gill Tract Occupation, calls for a community garden, along with recreational facilities (ball fields) and open space. Albany is pretty densely populated and I bet Boise has more possible spaces for community gardens than we do, but we're definitely working on it!

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