Cal plows again, after weekend occupation

Monday, Cal staff plowed up seeds planted over the weekend by activists at Albany's University Village. Photo: David Sanger

Monday, Cal staff plowed up seeds planted over the weekend by activists at Albany’s University Village. Photo: David Sanger

For the third time in less than a week, Cal staff have plowed up crops planted in Albany by a group of activists who have been working to turn a UC-owned vacant lot slated for development into a community farm.

The activists, called Occupy the Farm, have been visiting the San Pablo Avenue site regularly since May 11. They’ve planted crops and camped several times, and many of its members say the land should be protected in perpetuity and used for farming. The University of California, which owns the land, has been working with the city of Albany for about five years to develop a project for the property, at Monroe Street, which is set to include a Sprouts Farmers Market and a senior housing complex.

An Occupy the Farm spokeswoman, Lesley Haddock, said she was disappointed by the university’s decision to plow Monday.

“The land is not being used right now and they’re not planning to build this spring,” she said. “We’re not camping there. We’re just coming back to water and grow food for people, so it seems like a really terrible waste.”

Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor of communications and public affairs for Cal, said the activists camped Saturday night but left of their own accord Sunday at about 10 p.m. Unlike early last week, when several people were arrested after police said they refused to leave the land, there were no arrests over the weekend or Monday.

“We’re just moving forward with what we’ve been doing throughout this process,” she said. “We’re removing the plantings and continuing to monitor the situation and evaluate the next move.”

Over the weekend, emotions ran high between a small group of about a dozen counter-protestors from Albany and several members of Occupy the Farm. Albany residents opposed to the occupation have said the lot is not a good place for farmland, and that they want to see the UC development go forward.

“There are just some strong feelings on both sides,” said Holmes. “The counter-protestors really are against the Occupy the Farm people being there. Some words were exchanged, but that’s everyone’s right.”

Albany Councilwoman Joanne Wile visited the site Saturday afternoon to express support for the UC project moving forward.

“We have had five years of planning with a lot of community involvement, and I would like to see it proceed,” she said. In light of Cal’s decision to launch an urban agricultural institute connected to research fields north of the site, she said, the land around Monroe should be developed as planned.

Saturday, a University Village resident walking past the area with her son, in the midst of banging drums and the burning of sage throughout the afternoon, said she didn’t support the occupation, particularly in light of the prior week’s activities.

“I have found the protestors incredibly disruptive,” she said. “They kept our family up until 2 a.m. partying and yelling right before my qualifying exams. I didn’t appreciate that.”

Albany Mayor Peggy Thomsen said she’d rather see the activists use the democratic process to see if the majority of the community would support their concept.

“We’ve had lots of meetings and we still have lots of meetings before this project is done,” she said. “It would be more productive if they were planting in a place where it’s legal. There are many seniors in our community who’d be happy for their help.”

About 50 activists showed up Saturday to replant after last week’s plowing. They weeded an area on the west side of the field, and planted seeds in rows. Activists said using seeds rather than starts would lead to a better chance for the plants’ survival should plowing happen again.

Activist Franki J, 30, of Oakland said concerns about food sovereignty and food justice had drawn her into the Occupy the Farm activities.

“This land was intended for agricultural use,” she said. “It’s important we can feed the people. Why are we not growing food everywhere? We’re in a race to the bottom and it will get worse unless we can find solutions.”

Jacob Levin, 24, said he’d gotten involved with Occupy the Farm after working on farms and social justice issues in North Carolina.

“This occupation is putting forward a vision of what society could be,” he said. “I don’t know how to change the system but this seems like a first step.”

(The following photographs were taken by Emilie Raguso on Saturday, May 18.)


Two Albany residents, a counter-protestor on the left and an Occupy the Farm supporter on the right, talk Saturday.


Getting ready to plant.


Police monitored the planting activities.


Activists mostly planted seeds, but some starts were also on-site.


The revolutionary banjo arrives. Said the musician: “Music got its start in the fields, it belongs there.”


Activists salvage plowed-under starts from a row planted last week.


A pile of compost serves as a staging area for plants and gardening tools.


An Occupy the Farm supporter removes police tape.


Several activists shuck fava beans for planting.


Shucking fava beans under a shady canopy.

Lawsuit to stop grocery store tentatively denied [05.17.13]
Occupy the Farm: ‘We’ll keep coming back’ [05.14.13]
4 arrests, as Cal ends brief Albany occupation [05.13.13]
Urban farmers plan ‘short-form’ Gill Tract occupation [05.10.13]
Cal razes latest Occupy the Farm greens at Gill Tract [11.16.12]
UC Berkeley regains control of Gill Tract from activists [05.14.12]
UC Berkeley police block access to Occupy The Farm [05.09.12]
UC Berkeley sets midnight deadline for Occupy the Farm [05.05.12]
Could UC and Occupy the Farm compromise on Gill Tract? [05.04.12]
UC Berkeley on Occupy the Farm: ‘Time is running out’ [05.03.12]
Occupy the Farm activists issue open letter to community [04.30.12]
University open letter addresses ‘confusion’ on Gill Tract [04.27.12]
UC Berkeley calls for peaceful end to Occupy the Farm [04.23.12]

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  • gwumpycat

    Are you trying to play a game of cat and mouse with me?

  • gwumpycat

    Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

  • sue

    YES!!!! Quietly doing their thing without a lot of hoopla. I hope they are successful in their quest to turn that weed-laden lot between 6th & 7th Street at Harrison into something wonderful.

  • guest

    I don’t think she’s nuts (although some of them clearly are). I think they live in a little self-congratulatory bubble. They can’t see how their direct action might be anything but benign and they are shocked and hurt when someone is actually offended by their words and deeds.

  • guest

    Non-anonymous anonymity. Interesting concept!

  • PragmaticProgressive

    They all seem to be adults. In the context of a discussion/debate, I don’t think it’s particularly significant that one disputant is older/younger than the other.

  • The_Sharkey

    Is playing the “Age Card” a thing?

  • The_Sharkey

    Just pointing out the hypocrisy (or maybe just plain douchebaggery) of attacking someone based on totally unrelated comments from their posting history when you post in a way where no one can examine yours in kind.

    If the issue is important to you, why not try staying on topic rather than once again wandering off into lame personal attacks?

  • Biker 94703

    But Phish _is_ still touring…

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I sometimes hear people here complain when someone points out that all of the protestors at this-or-that event are “of a certain age,” but this is the first time I can recall someone being upset because an older protestor faced off against a younger (but fully adult) protestor.

  • The_Sharkey

    Anyone who thinks that a bunch of stoners planting a couple of rows of veggies on an abandoned lot in Albany is going to keep the planet from “dying in committee” is bonkers.

  • guest

    As a nearby resident, IMO the occupy protesters are not doing anything which is helping the community by trying to repeatedly squat on land they don’t own. By their own logic, why are they not trying to occupy every park in the area and cover them to farms instead of wasting all that land and water just to grow grass for parks?

    The gill track is not their land, and the surrounding community is getting more and more fed up with the negative affect these protesters have on those around them, not to mention the money wasted cleaning up after them. I hope they find a more worthwhile project to spend their time and effort on. Their intentions may be good, but their methods are not doing anything to help their cause.

  • guest

    Because YOU, Tizzy et al. decided we could (and should) consider the source of your comments. So we do. A look at the poster’s basic grasp of reality is always in context, whatever the topic.

  • guest

    “Non-anonymous anonymity. Interesting concept!”

    It’s also called “branding”…as in; Read “The Sharkey”! The leading brand in Berkeleyside posting!

  • The_Sharkey

    So the source of the comments is important, except when it’s not. And context is important, except when it’s not. And you expect other people to be held to standards that you won’t hold yourself to.

    Got it.

  • guest


  • guest

    I know. I do enjoy his posts, but he can get a might twitchy sometimes, can’t he, guest?

  • guest

    Yep. Pretty soon we’ll get a bunch of spewage about how Albany is just a bunch of privileged white one percenters who don’t know or care about the planet. And besides, they didn’t mean “community” as in, the people that actually live near by, they meant “community” as in all of California, or maybe, all the people in the world. So there. I wonder how their buddies in Keep Albany Local feel about being given the shaft.

  • John Holland

    I’m glad that the University recognizes that Gill Tract Golf™ has just as much claim to the land than “Occupy” The “Farm” does, if not more.

    We have submitted a land use plan to the City of Albany, something “Occupy” hasn’t done.

    A miniature golf family entertainment fun center is a considered use of the land that will benefit all members of the community.

  • guest

    @ “THE SHARKEY” (TM)…

    “So the source of the comments is important, except when it’s not. And context is important, except when it’s not.”

    Source and context are essential, WHEN a BIG NAME poster like yourself chooses to make them so. YOU have made them relevant and so has Tizzy and some others by your Kardashian-like self brand building efforts. The lime light comes at a price.

    “And you expect other people to be held to standards that you won’t hold yourself to.”

    This is your best one yet! “THE SHARKEY” (TM) says I need to have a hokey screen name or I ain’t as good as him…WOW!

  • The_Sharkey

    Well now you’ve got me wondering if you’re just too stupid to know how Disqus works.

    Good job misconstruing my comments though. Top quality trolling. Really quite impressive.

  • guest

    Thank you! Kim.

  • notguest

    Come on Sharkey, you throw chum into the water all the time with your superior, I’m the smartest little boy in the room, condescension. What do you think you are going to attract? Love?

  • guest


  • Disgusted with OTF

    And they’re going to return again this weekend 5/25 @ 5pm and are planning to camp out as well. UC needs to put an end to this once and for all. Arrest them immediately upon trespassing. Their behavior is unacceptable to the community and they’re just bunch of childish hypocrites who need to direct their energy towards more productive things (and/or they all need to get jobs and grow up). Read about it here on Patch:

  • guest

    THANK YOU Albany!

    Before this item slides off the first page, I’d like to thank the folks is Albany for showing us Berkeleyans how to deal with selfish kids and their tantrums.

    The next time some of our kids climb trees and claim they (the trees) are the reincarnated spirit of their grandmothers…MAYBE we won’t be so quick to consider the possibility of their vision by spending thousands of dollars in city funds on fences and security.

    MAYBE…we’ll just arrest them for trespassing and have done with it.

  • guest

    It’s always been part of the game…taking the bus to Santa Rita, being de-loused…how could we deny these young eco-warriors those essential rites of passage?

  • guest

    It’s pretty clear that they aren’t really about growing food, they are about Revolution, but they can’t say that out loud because they know it would disconcert so many of us “sheeple”. Same old far Left crap, new packaging. Opportunistic parasites like these have been with us for as long as good hearted people have wanted to make the world a better place. When these extremists actually get power, they inevitably screw things up and get people killed because they don’t have the faintest idea as to how to actually run things.

  • Mel Content

    I’m willing to support your proposal if I get to have the orange ball.

  • Mel Content

    How about growing something useful, like hops? Seems like a good legal cash crop for the microbrewing industry.