Thursday, December 12, 2013

Occupy the Farm! Preserve the Gill Tract of Albany!

"Farmers Gather to Discourage Sprouts Development of Gill Tract"
2013-12-11 press release from "Occupy The Farm!" [] [], and the Gill Tract Farmers Collective, at Gill Tract in Albany, CA 94706. Press Contacts: Lesley Haddock [707-293-3253] []: 
Albany, CA -- On Wednesday, December 11th, at 6 p.m., the Albany Planning and Zoning Committee will meet to approve plans to pave over the historic Gill Tract farmland and build a Sprouts commercial grocery chain. Farmers and East Bay residents will gather to protest the decision, and will hold a General Assembly to determine a response after the meeting.
The Gill Tract is home to some of the best remaining agricultural soil in the East Bay. This public farmland was once 104 acres, but the University of California has repeatedly cut the land into smaller and smaller pieces and sold it off to developers. Today, only 20 acres remain. The future of these 20 acres is hotly contested, with students, farmers, and residents trying to permanently preserve it for farming and urban agro-ecological research.
“The City of Albany and Sprouts “Farmers Market” have repeatedly ignored calls to halt their commercial development plans and start working towards creating a public urban farm,” said Stefanie Rawlings, an organizer with Occupy the Farm. “For fifteen years, various local organizations have fought to preserve the Gill Tract. Paving the Gill Tract would be an incalculable loss to our community.”
Occupy the Farm has staged two occupations of the Gill Tract, during which the group demonstrated the potential this land has for farming by planting out various plots of the land. After the first occupation, a group of Albany residents calling themselves the Albany Farm Alliance formed in support of urban farming on the Gill Tract.
After the occupation in 2012, Whole Foods, a potential developer, opted to open in a nearby location rather than destroy this community asset. Unfortunately, Sprouts “Farmers Market” has persisted in its attempt to pave over the vital farmland.
Occupy the Farm has written two open letters to Sprouts, organized a boycott, collected hundreds of petition signatures, and participated in several creative actions, including a guerilla film project, at various retail locations to express the communities’ discontent with the development plans. There has been no official response from Sprouts.
After the Planning and Zoning meeting this Wednesday, Occupy the Farm will be holding a General Assembly to respond to the decision.

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