Activist group Occupy the Farm reclaims University of California-owned land

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A group of activists reclaimed a tract of land in Albany, Calif., owned by the University of California at Berkeley on Saturday in a takeover they termed Occupy the Farm.

Several dozen people marched onto the land, called Gill Tract, to pull weeds and protest the university’s plans to build a chain grocery store there, KTVU reported.

“The Gill Tract is a really prime piece of a larger puzzle for us to move away from industrialized agriculture and toward people controlling their own food systems,” organizer Lesley Haddock, a third-year student in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, told KTVU.

“I’d really like to see the UC fulfill its public mission of being a resource for California and really serving the public, and it worries me that the university has been trending toward privatization over the last decade,” she added.

Matthew McHale, an Occupy the Farm spokesman, told the San Jose Mercury News that the group wants to grow food for the poor and set up an urban agricultural center to teach people to use available spaces to grow healthful food.

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes told the Mercury News that the protesters were trespassing.

“For the last five years, we’ve been collaborating with the city and community” on a plan to develop the site for a grocery store and senior housing, she said. “The land hasn’t been farmed for 70 years.”

In a statement issued on Thursday in anticipation of the protest, university officials said they would “not allow a permanent encampment of our property” and were working with the Albany officials and other authorities to “ensure preparedness if illegal activities take place on our property,” KTVU said.

No arrests were reported.

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