FWD - US activists take over land, start farming RTF

Will Todd tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Apr 26 20:57:19 BST 2012

Occupy the Farm kicks off in the states. En masse land occupation 
with rapid introduction of agriculture. Very inspiring. It would be 
great to organise something similar! Anyone interested or know of any 
such plans in the UK?


Full article copied below:

Occupy v. Whole Foods? Activists Take Over Land Slated for 
Development and Start a Farm

The Gill Tract is prime agricultural soil that activists hope can 
feed hundreds. But the UC Berkeley-owned land may be sold to Whole Foods.
April 24, 2012  |


Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Konstantin Sutyagin

Under the banner "Occupy the Farm," a coalition of local residents, 
farmers, students, researchers, and activists broke the lock and 
entered the UC Berkeley-owned Gill Tract on a sunny Sunday afternoon, 
bringing with them over 15,000 seedlings, a pair of rototillers and a 
half-dozen chickens in mobile chicken-tractors. Hundreds of people, 
including a dozen or so children, went to work clearing weeds, 
tilling garden beds, filling holes with compost, and planting 
seedlings. At the end of four hours, they'd planted an estimated 
three-quarters of an acre.  Invoking the spirit of international 
peasant farmer movements La Via Campesina and Brazil's Movimento Sem 
Terra, hundreds of people entered a five-acre plot of land at the 
Berkeley/Albany border on Sunday April 22, in one of this spring's 
first high-profile actions of the Occupy movement. Their goal? To 
farm the land and share the food with the local community.

After last fall's burst of Occupy actions raised a challenge to 
corporate control writ large, organizers of Occupy the Farm say they 
are kicking off the spring season with efforts to reclaim land not 
just as a way of occupying space, but to meet the needs of 
communities through food production.

The group's press release, which garnered significant media attention 
and brought several TV crews out to film the rebel farmers, said, 
"Occupy the Farm seeks to address structural problems with health and 
inequalities in the Bay Area that stem from communities' lack of 
access to food and land. Today's action reclaims the Gill Tract to 
demonstrate and exercise the peoples' right to use public space for 
the public good. This farm will serve as a hub for urban agriculture, 
a healthy and affordable food source for Bay Area residents and an 
educational center."

The Gill Tract, an agricultural research plot owned by UC Berkeley, 
is the last five acres of Class 1 soil in the East Bay. Generations 
of UC researchers have farmed here; now UCB Capital Projects, which 
holds the title to the land, has slated it for rezoning in 2013. 
Ironically, the activists say the company most likely to buy it up 
for development is Whole Foods Corporation. Hence the Occupiers' 
slogan: "Whole food, not Whole Foods."

The organizers say the UC-owned Gill tract is significant not only 
because it is the last and best agricultural land in the East Bay, 
but because the struggle over this land is tied to the struggle to 
keep the public university serving the public interest. Over the last 
decade, through investments by Novartis, Syngenta, BP and other 
corporations, the University of California has become increasingly 
captured by private interests, which have come to control the 
research agenda and the land use policy. Now, Occupy the Farm says, 
the public is taking it back.

Early on a fog-bound Monday morning less than 24 hours after the 
occupation began, Anya Kamenskaya, in blue pinstriped overalls, is 
stretching her arms and legs to recover from a night sleeping on a 
groundpad. "We're going to have to institute morning calisthenics," 
she says with a laugh.

Kamenskaya, a UC Berkeley alum and educator, says, "Farming 
underutilized spaces such as these can create alternatives to the 
corporate control of our food system. Five acres can feed up to 250 
families using a community-supported agriculture model. A major 
component of what we're doing here is showing that urban land can and 
should be used to meet the food needs of local people."

Kamenskaya studied with Miguel Altieri, a widely respected professor 
of agro-ecology who works hard to bridge the divide between 
university research and the needs of farmers, especially in his 
native South America. As an undergrad in 2008, Kamenskaya says, she 
got Altieri's approval to start a farm-to-school program with a local 
elementary school, using a piece of the Gill tract to grow the food.
Uk mailing list
Uk at lists.reclaimthefields.org
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