'Occupy The Farm' continues demonstration

April 23, 2012 8:50:10 PM PDT
An Earth Day demonstration is turning into a stand-off between occupiers and UC Berkeley. In Albany, protesters have taken over a plot of university-owned land to grow vegetables.

The group called "Occupy The Farm" says they have gotten a great reception from neighbors, some are even stopping by to help out and bring seeds and soil. However, the response from UC Berkeley, which owns this property, hasn't been so enthusiastic.

Earth Day may be over, but occupy the farm is not. As volunteers rip up the weeds, others come in behind them, with potted seedlings, top soil and water. All the way down to the irrigation system -- and the chickens -- it has the look, feel and smell of a small family farm. This is not a halfhearted job.

"Absolutely not, as I said, months of effort have gone into planning this," said Anya Kamenskaya, the Occupy The Farm organizer.

In fact, if it weren't for the tents and the protest signs, you might almost forget that every single person on the land is breaking the law.

UC spokesman Dan Mogulof was vague about how the school plans to deal with the occupation, but says they are trespassing.

"We'll enforce those policies and laws only when we can do so in a safe and effective manner," said Mogulof.

But it's clear they won't go willingly.

"Obviously our plan is to hold the land. This land is under threat of development," said Kamenskaya.

Though the university currently uses this land for agricultural research, part of it is slated to be sold to build an assisted living community, with some retail space. But Mogulof says that's not the part that's being occupied. He says this land might eventually be turned into little league baseball fields, but occupiers insist an urban farm is just as valuable.

"You talk to kids, they don't know where their food comes from. They don't know what kind of work it takes to grow food, they don't know how much water it takes," said Gopal Dayaneni from Occupy The Farm.

Water, it turns out, is becoming a problem on the farm. After occupiers got a brief visit from UC dean Keith Gillis, with the College of Natural Resources, their irrigation water was mysteriously turned off. For the moment, they say they're not discouraged.

"We're going to be here as long as we need to be here to secure the land," said Kamenskaya.

The occupiers say they're already asking neighbors to borrow their hose spigots, buckets and flower pots in order to water the crops. And they say at least a couple dozen of them plan to stay overnight in those tents and keep watch around the clock.

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