Take Back the Land! Radical Farmers ‘Occupy the Farm’
While most people living in an urban environment are forced to choose between mass produced “food products” shipped in from hundreds or even thousands of miles away and over priced organic produce from a Whole Foods Market, which is also sourced from far away lands, a group of Bay Area occupiers have made a step towards self-sustainability by re-claiming prime agricultural land owned by the University of California at Berkeley.
After Sunday’s “Love the Land” march through Berkeley, hundreds of marchers liberated 10 acres of “Class I agricultural soil” when they cut through locks and pushed past fences in order to till the land and plant the 10,000 + seedlings they brought with them. The “Gill Tract,” as the previously vacant land is termed, has been the center of conflict between local activists and the university for over a decade.
“For ten years people in Albany have tried to turn the Gill Tract into an Urban Farm and a more open space for the community. The people in the Bay Area deserve to use this treasure of land for an urban farm to help secure the future of our children,” Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, an Albany resident and public school teacher for 38 years says in a press release by ‘Occupy the Farm’ activists.
A diverse group of farmers, researchers, students, anarchists and occupy protesters held the space into the morning with little authoritarian push back. A pair of UC police officers approached the group and warned them that they were trespassing, but made no attempts to clear the space or make arrests… so far. Earlier today, however, the water supply was cut off prompting the protesters to request water donations via twitter.
Protesters have decided to use this space as a community garden in response to plans by university officials to sell off the land for private commercial use. Many feel that a natural food source is more necessary and desirable than a parking lot and another Whole Foods.
The goal of this direct action protest is to “address structural problems with health and inequalities in the Bay Area that stem from communities’ lack of access to food and land.” By utilizing the available earth for growing food, locals will have the opportunity to learn how to become self sufficient and teach their children where food really comes from.
The radical farm action is sure to inspire occupiers around the country to spring into action as the weather starts to become more hospitable for outdoor activity. As fast food restaurants and chain grocery stores continue to peddle items alleged to be healthy, the vast majority of people understand the need to break free from the corporate food system and begin to consume locally grown food. In time and with similar actions around the country, millions will be empowered to take the radical steps some have taken this weekend in the East Bay. It’s time to take back the land and use it as it was meant to be used!
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Photos by Jessica Hollie - @BellaEiko