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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.

Dan Mogulof May 05, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Don, sorry but I must correct you again. We have no intention of rewarding those involved in the occupation. What is on offer is a chance to participate----again, with people like yourself----in the discussions about the short- and long-term future of the tract, including the dedication of a portion of the land to urban farming. No preferences, just a seat at the table along with other members of our community. Dan
Kirsten Schwartz May 05, 2012 at 04:06 AM
100%? That's not dealing in a fair way.
Don Driscoll May 05, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Dan- If I understand you, UCB plans to treat the squatters as “members of our community”—“no preferences,” with a full seat at the table, based on their transitory, illegal occupation of UCB land. If this is not a reward for occupying Gill Tract, what would be? Don
Ellen Hershey May 05, 2012 at 04:56 AM
The University's offer is reasonable and more than generous. I hope the Occupiers will pack up and leave as gracefully as they can, cleaning up after themselves as they go.
Emilie Raguso May 05, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I don't know about a percentage but there are a a significant number of Albany folks who have been supporting the effort. Many attended a meeting earlier this week with an estimated 100 people. As far as those not from Albany, many seem to be from cities nearby. I don't have specific numbers though.
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 05, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I can't help but recall those immortal words of Yogi Berra, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 05, 2012 at 06:37 AM
Well then, in the words of that other immortal, The Tick, "Spoon!"
Robert Marshall May 05, 2012 at 09:03 AM
Nor a "truly" democratic way either! Sacramento, in all its twisted ways doesn't even require 100% agreement for something to pass.
lupe miller May 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
And you, Mr. Barnes, are always right, so you say. And you are right on behalf of everyone: Albany residents, UC. I also suggest the occupiers view this as an opportunity to take a seat at the planning table, among others interested in the fate of this land, and don't force an unpeaceful action. In my opinion, and I don't assume I speak for everyone or that there is one "right" view, they have a rightful place, as Albany residents, UC students and graduate students, UC faculty, and neighboring community.
Michael Barnes May 05, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Lupe, Look, I know me much better than you do, so please trust me when I tell you I am not always right. Just ask my teenager (well, actually, he just turned 20, so he's not a teenager anymore). See, I was wrong about that, too. I agree that their is no right answer. There is no way that we can make everyone happy in this situation. But I disagree that the occupiers should have a seat at the table, with some exceptions. I don't think non-residents who came here solely for this occupation, and who have little long term interest in our town, should have a seat. And I don't think we should be in the business of rewarding criminal behavior, and in fact providing seats to criminal trespassers while denying them to law-abiding residents of Albany. That is a serious mistake.
Peggy McQuaid May 05, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Everyone has always had a seat at the table, it is a very large table. When speaking at a public meeting you do not have to give your address, although it is appreciated. Now the OTF folks want to determine what is served at the table.
Kevin Johnson May 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Emilie, when you say "significant number of Albany of folks supporting the effort", how did you come up with the number to determine that?
Michael Barnes May 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Peggy, sorry, the metaphors are getting pretty thick around here. The table I was referring to was the very private table that UC set the other night. No one invited any of us, as several people have complained. I guess we haven't been criminal enough. As for public meetings, of course everyone has a seat at the table, or at least in the audience, where they can wait in line to talk at the microphone for three minutes like the rest of us.
Emilie Raguso May 05, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Purely anecdotal. I've been over at the farm a number of times and inevitably run into Albany people, either those I know or just in talking with people.
Kevin Johnson May 05, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Fair enough, I just feel using the term "significant" when the city has a population close to 40k, may be misleading. However, I may just be splitting corn silk. Thanks for your tremendous coverage!
Don Driscoll May 05, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Peggy- UCB is carefully using ambiguous words. One could hear UCB to say it will give the squatters a seat at the very large table which gives everybody their turn at the public microphone. If so, great. Everybody, squatter or not, should be heard at the public microphone. However, I have trouble believing this is what UCB is offering—how could giving the squatters an opportunity they already have motivate them to leave? As somebody with some experience in dispute resolution, I infer that UCB, at its closed meetings with the squatters, is letting the squatters believe the offered “seat at the table” is something more than that. UCB is excluding us from its meetings with the squatters in part because they don’t want us to hear and object, while giving us bland reassurances that no “binding promises” are being made.
Bart Grossman May 05, 2012 at 05:23 PM
The irony of this is that this land has never been available to Albany residents.. I've lived in Albany for 30 years and never been able to set foot on this land. Now we have a group of squatters who "own" it. What's the difference? The only way it will be available to the public is if UC goes ahead with its development plan which has benefits for the city including senior housing, a Whole Foods Market and playing fields for the kids. I think these uses speak to our needs as a community. A farm isn't open space.
Caryl O'Keefe May 05, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Mr. Driscoll, projecting guesses about what might have been said is not helpful. The federal mediator in my family insisted that sticking to facts, and refraining from disparaging statements, were necessary for successful dispute resolution.
Emilie Raguso May 05, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Ah, thanks for the question and clarification. I mean significant in terms of population of local occupy supporters, not in terms of Albany population (16k to 18k)
Michael Barnes May 05, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Bart, Thanks for this, I think this is a perspective that has not gotten enough attention. Interestingly, the researchers on the Gill Tract also accept the inevitability of this, but only after giving them enough warning to find new research space. The legal transition to what you envision will take years, and would give everyone plenty of time to adjust. FYI, here is an interesting perspective that I found this in the Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2012/05/02/gill-tract-occupation-impedes-agricultural-research/
Michael Barnes May 05, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Bart, I forgot to add that while growing healthy vegetables is important, growing healthy kids is more important. Our kids need playing fields here. Healthy vegetables we can from our own gardens, and through community supported agriculture.
Don Driscoll May 05, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Caryl- You are right, we agree. It is the facts that are important. The irony of your comment, though, is that it was UCB itself, at Boalt Hall, which spent three years training me to read carefully, to consider what facts might lie unexpressed. You mention mediators. Mediators, federal or otherwise, often play an important part in dispute resolution. As you suggest, mediators often discourage parties from expressing negative emotions to each other during mediation. In contrast, mediators often encourage exchange of factual information. UCB is not a mediator; it is a party to the current situation. One of the important reasons I post to the Albany Patch is to encourage UCB to explain what it is doing. I am pleased that one of its public information officers has twice responded to my postings with postings of his own. I would be very pleased if UCB would post again, and tell us the facts. What was said and what was not said at meetings closed to the public about the nature of the “seat at the table” that UCB is offering?
Tatter Salad May 05, 2012 at 10:45 PM
So it turns out: I speak for the nine billion. As I've said before, justifications for the 'Occupation' of the Big U's land thus far has been all subterfuge too easily presented here on the Albany Patch; with the worst aspect being the attempted indoctrination of locals and children into believing that the Big U's Agriculture department is NOT 'OK', while theft of land is, particularly if local tomatoes are your goal. I wanted to know more about Ag-major, and admit that if they had occupied Boalt Hall, then I probably would not need research todays trends. Majors that were steller contributors just 15 years ago (eg. BS in biochemistry, or computer game graphics) have lost their shine today. The Ag-major too has suffered, as they are on the Government Trough, which has had recent set-backs. As it turns out, there are a great number of 'worthless' majors, but the creation of agricultural experts is not one of them. In fact, there has been a 10% decline in the level of interest in this major, while there has been a 5% increase in the need for graduates form this discipline. (1) Agriculture isn't dead. The worlds population rate today points to 9 million mouths to feed by 2050 (2); and we will need to safely DOUBLE food production in order to meet that demand. For your grandchildrens' sake: Clear the land of squatters. 1)www.bls.gov/oco/ocos046.htm 2)Feedstuffs Foodlink; Feedstuffs, 4APR2010
Tatter Salad May 05, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Gentlepersons: Think globally; act locally. Read my statement regarding the '9 Billion' below.
Lisa Schneider May 06, 2012 at 02:23 AM
FYI, Daily Kos' national take on the "Local Perspective": http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/05/1089092/-Occupying-the-Farm-The-Manure-Is-About-To-Hit-The-Fan-
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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