Farming Activists Preempt Secret Albany Council Harvest

Written by Courtney Harrop. Posted in Environment, Land Use, News, Politics

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Published on July 09, 2012 with 3 Comments


#OccupyTheFarm Harvest July 7, 2012 Albany CA

By Courtney Harrop

July 9, 2012

As many as 75 Occupy the Farm farmers preempted Saturday an Albany Council invite-only harvest of crops planted by the activist group in April at the Gill Tract, a 5-acre plot of class 1 agricultural land owned by UC Berkeley used for crop research, and delivered to the UC Berkeley Chancellor a barrow’s-full of bolted lettuce in a symbolic gesture.

The group occupied the land for three weeks in an attempt to create a local, sustainable urban farm, tilling the soil, removing weeds and planting crops – before UC Berkeley and Albany police raided the community farm and filed charges against the occupiers. The charges were eventually dropped.

“Dear Chancellor, This lettuce would have been delicious a few weeks ago, but now it is no more than a bitter harvest,” a note from the group read, pinned to the Chancellor’s house door. “The UC continues to show itself a poor steward of the land.  We will help.”

“You can’t beet [sic] us, so lettuce [sic] farm already.”

A note from Occupy The Farm was affixed to the UC Berkeley chancellor’s house door. Photo by Courtney Harrop.

Occupy the Farm activists dumped a neglected crop of lettuce outside the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s house. Photo by Courtney Harrop.

Two Albany council members had attempted to arrange the invite-only party to harvest the crops but their clandestine plan was foiled by the group which issued a press release stating, “Occupy the Farm will crash an exclusive invite-only harvest party sponsored by the Albany City Council and UC Berkeley.”

“The city has organized a harvest party for a small hand-selected group. Participants in the Occupation are expressly forbidden from participating in the harvest of crops that were sown while Gill Tract was briefly open to the public.”

The preemption forced the City of Albany to cancel their plan.

By 9 am, Saturday, the farmers, activists and community members began to arrive at the Gill Tract in the presence of Albany police and University Village Security.  The group opened the gates and began harvesting, weeding, and watering the crops they had sown. For the next few hours, people of all ages peacefully harvested the fruits of their labor.

A notice of trespass was read to the farmers, who continued to weed and work. Cucumbers, squash, beans, tomatoes, swiss chard, beets, and chamomile were brought out by the wheelbarrow load. Once the harvesting was finished, people gathered for a general assembly to discuss how to distribute the food.

An Occupy The Farm farmer retrieves harvested crops planted by the activist group during a three week occupation of the Gill Tract that began on Earth Day. Photo by Courtney Harrop.

A decision was reached to have a pickling demonstration at the Albany city council meeting today, where the council will discuss further planning for the Gill Tract.

Continuing live coverage and archived footage from the protests is available here.

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Courtney Harrop

Courtney Harrop

I am an independent journalist, live streamer and photographer from BC, Canada. I have been covering the Occupy Movement since early October, and have been documenting social justice issues across North America for the last decade. Only recently have I begun to share my work outside of friends and family. I am a mom of two amazing daughters, and have a love of books, research, cookies, coffee and awesome beaches and camping.

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  • Farmer Joe

    Yay farmers! 

  • I don’t see how they could’ve grown that stuff during a three-week occupation, but I am sorry this didn’t survive.  Cooperative urban farming is one of the most promising social movements now manifest.

    • Courtney

       These crops were planted during the three week occupation that began on April 22nd. After the farm was raided, the UC destroyed many of the crops, but left 40 rows, which they claimed to have watered and weeded. They did not do a very good job, and had they taken proper care, there would have been much more food.