This Earth Day, April 22, a Bay-area coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists called Occupy The Farm began an action protesting the loss of farmland and agricultural education in the East Bay. The group planted over 10,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.
Occupy the Farm contends that for decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education and instead intends to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot. The group seeks to address issues of food and land access in the area, and to create a hub for urban agriculture in the Bay Area.
The action started on Sunday as several hundred community members marched to the tract and began clearing and planting starts. Later in the afternoon police arrived and demanded that the occupiers leave, but at present the group has committed to stay and defend the farm.
At a time when agricultural education and awareness is urgently needed, this clearly brings to light the need for communities to stand against attempts to eliminate community and educational projects. You can find more information about the occupation at www.takebackthetract.com.