About 20 core organizers put the project together, said Gopal Dayaneni, as the university continues pursuing plans to sell the Gill Tract, about 10 acres of agricultural land on San Pablo Avenue at the Berkeley-Albany border, for private development.
Dayaneni said the group is committed to growing both the farm and its community of farmers.
At about 6 p.m., as roughly 50 people continued working, Dayaneni said that earlier in the day the project had drawn hundreds of people in support. Volunteers had about 10,000 starts — small bulbs or seedlings — and dug dozens of rows, planting herbs, beans, broccoli, kale, chard and sweet peas. Some people brought chickens, and the group even brought in a large tank to water the rows.
“This is the last, best agricultural soil in the East Bay, and we want it to be preserved for community farming and sustainable urban agriculture, not chopped up and sold off in pieces by the university,” said Dayaneni, a 43-year-old Oakland resident and father of two who said he’s long been active in environmental and ecological issues in the East Bay.
He said the project became necessary as the Gill Tract has gradually been reduced from more than 100 acres to about 10 acres.
The group said it hopes the university will commit to using the remaining land for public farming, rather than selling it off. The new farm, Dayaneni said, is a work in progress, but the group hopes to build on Sunday’s efforts and make it a source of “healthy, local, yummy, tasty food for people who need it.”
A live online video stream from Ustream user BellaEiko on Sunday showed dozens of protesters milling about the tract around 4 p.m., some of them gardening. A few minutes earlier, the stream showed University of California police officers telling protesters that they were trespassing and subject to arrest.
Neither Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof nor university police immediately returned phone calls Sunday afternoon asking for comment. Albany police referred all questions to university police.
Dayaneni said the group has been cordial with police and is planning to camp out to protect its hard work.
“Occupy the Farm is committed to farming; that’s the purpose of it,” he said. “If (police) want to tell us to leave, we’ll keep farming, and they’ll have to make a decision what to do.”
Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog