Food Sovereignty in Action at the Gill Tract in Albany, California USA
Report by Food First intern, Vishrut Arya. April 24, 2012
This past Sunday, April 22, Earth Day, about two hundred farmers, families, and activists gathered for a potluck at Ohlone Park in Berkeley to celebrate the Earth and food sovereignty.
The idea of Food sovereignty, promoted by the international small farmer movement, La Via Campesina is that communities have the right to control their own equitable and sustainable food systems, including access to land, fresh water, and seed.
The group ended their march through Berkeley on Sunday afternoon at the Gill Tract in Albany, CA—the last 10 acres of pristine agricultural land in the urbanized East Bay. While the Gill Tract is public land, the University of California at Berkeley which administers the site, is proposing to privatize this unique public asset by constructing commercial retail space, for-profit senior housing, and a Whole Foods Supermarket.
Two UC police officers visited as planting of 15,000 plants commenced on Sunday afternoon, saying they would be back at 10 PM to make arrests. Around midnight a few officers came and had what was reported to be a peaceful conversation with the group. Nonetheless, they warned that police action would take place the following day.
On Monday, the UC administration released a statement in response to the new farming project and told the group that UC administrators would come to the Gill Tract at 2 PM to have a conversation. Instead of meeting with the farmers, UC shut off the water at the Gill Tract.
Undeterred, the group has continued pulling out cover crops, tilling the soil, and planting seedlings. They also held a potluck on Monday evening, inviting community members and all interested parties to discuss the future of the space. No police action was taken on Monday.
As of Tuesday, the group continues making progress toward their objective of keeping the space as a public urban agroecology center. Given the irrigation lines have been shut off, they’ve been watering the newly planted seedlings by filling and re-filling donated water tanks.
On Tuesday evening April 24, 2012, the Albany City Council is slated to consider the proposal for a Whole Foods Supermarket on a portion of the Gill Tract.
Video of Day 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8QzFUmii58
Facebook: Occupy the Farm at http://www.facebook.com/search/results.php?q=occupythefarm&init=quick&ta...
Email: GillTractFarm [at] riseup [dot] net
Contacts: Anya at 415-892-4793; Gopal at 510-847-3592; Lesley at 707-293-3253