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UC to Occupy the Farm: 'We're at a Fork in the Road'

University of California representatives met with members of Occupy the Farm on Thursday. No resolution was reached. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic.

The fate of the remains undecided after a Thursday night meeting between about a dozen people representing both the University of California at Berkeley and urban farming activists known as Occupy the Farm.

The two sides met to discuss a possible resolution after the occupiers took over a university-owned agricultural research field in Albany in late April.

The university has maintained the position that the "tent city" used by activists, while they retain control of the land and develop their farm activities, must be dismantled.

University spokesman Dan Mogulof said Friday afternoon that Thursday night's private meeting was a "frank and forthright exchange of information and perspectives."

He continued, however, that "the only thing people agreed on was that everybody would like to see a peaceful end to this, an end without conflict."

Mogulof said representatives from Occupy the Farm said they would explain the university's position to their supporters, but that a 100 percent consensus would need to be reached for them to accept the university's proposal.

(Members of Occupy the Farm have not yet been reached for comment, but they indicated that they plan to begin community forums on Monday about how to handle the university's proposal.)

Mogulof said the university explained to the activists why people could not continue living on the farm, and said research "cannot begin if the university is not in a supervisory role" at the Gill Tract. 

He said it would be too difficult to ensure that research efforts would go unmolested if an agreement on this could not be reached. 

The university asked the activists to come back with a decision within "the next day or two," said Mogulof. In a statement published Friday, and attached to the right as a PDF, the university requested a response no later than the night of Saturday, May 5.

"We're at a fork in the road, and a choice needs to be made," said Mogulof. "One fork leads to a seat at the table for them in a community-based discussion about a continuation of university-supervised urban farming on a portion of tract.

"The other fork would mean that they elect to continue with the illegal encampment and, in that case, we will continue to honor our commitment to our faculty, to ensure that they can that they've dedicated their professional lives to."

Mogulof said the 1.5-hour meeting Thursday included six university representatives and about the same number of organizers from Occupy the Farm.

In the conversation, he said, the university made sure its position was clear; detailed the efforts already underway at the College of Natural Resources in support of metropolitan farming; and explained the history of the property and the "exact role" Capital Projects has in overseeing the Gill Tract.

Mogulof said there are no imminent plans for development at the Gill Tract, and that whatever happens at the site will result from a process based on community discussions and goals in conjunction with the city of Albany. (The area is zoned, in the university's 2004 Master Plan, for recreation and open space.)

Activists have said they are concerned about the development of the property, which has a long history as a rich, never-developed agricultural area. The site has become even more important, they say, in the face of increasing development throughout the Bay Area. 

Mogulof said much of the information shared Thursday night had not previously been discussed between the two groups, and that he hoped, "with this new information in hand, that the status quo may change. We also made it clear that time is running out."

He added: "We deeply and sincerely hope they choose the path of discussion and participation, and stop the effort to unilaterally impose their vision on what is, after all, an open air laboratory."

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.

Robert Marshall May 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I like the way they apparently ripped off the photo from the Albany Patch without any attribution.
Brian Parsley May 06, 2012 at 04:53 AM
They didn't steal the photo, it was being underutilized by Patch, so they simply occupied it.
John Nemeth May 06, 2012 at 05:06 AM
One problem that I have with the Daily Kos article is that its grossly understates the liability risk that the University is incurring. It raises the issue, only to quickly dismiss it by saying that UC supervision of occuply's activitsts could be "light as a feather" or just left to the occupiers. Look - just to do something as simple and well-intentioned as driving Albany kids to a field trip requires proof of insurance, a driving test and a tuberculosis test. I work for a public agency that owns a large amount of property and has hosted public events. The sponsors of those events must go through a whole process of disclosing their plans, indemnifying the owner, providing proof of insurance, etc, etc. This is partly to protect the public, but mainly to protect these public agencies against lawsuits. Occupy the farm has a lot of people living out there. And its going way beyond OWS, since people are actually modifying the land, wielding tools, promoting public events. Have they indemnified the UC? Do they have their own insurance? I can only imagine that the UC has made the calculus that exposing us citizens, taxpayers students, and faculty to a financial hit is better than incuring bad PR. In the wake of the pepper spray fiasco, UC has become very easy to take advantage of. They are timid to the point of irresponsiblity. If having cops come in is off the table, then the only option is to provide more rewards and incentives to the occupiers.
Jo-Anna Pippen May 07, 2012 at 02:49 AM
So this could very well be headed toward another tree sitting fiasco with lawsuits stretching out for months, maybe years. I am becoming less and less sympathic to the occupiers if this is what they invision and perhaps are counting on happening.
Michael Barnes May 07, 2012 at 04:38 AM
John, Jo-Anna, I have been concerned as well about what would happen if one of the "farmers" got their foot mangled in a roto-tiller. I suspect they would complain to daddy who would hire a lawyer to sue UC. But the thing to keep in mind with the tree-sitters and (so far) the Gill Tract occupiers, is that time is on the side of UC--right up until it's not. The tree-sitters didn't actually impede the development of the new sports complex at Cal until all the lawsuits with the wealthy NIMBYs in the hills were resolved. Only then did UC act to remove the tree-sitters. Likewise, so far the occupation has not blocked spring planting and the fulfillment of UC's research contract obligations to federal funding agencies. Once that research work is put in jeopardy, UC will have to move quickly. That time is coming very soon. I do think Cal learned a painful lesson with the tree-sitters. We'll see how this all works out.

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