About 100 people attended a meeting about the Gill Tract at the Albany Community Center on Wednesday. Judging by applause at some comments, the majority supported the recent take-over of the Gill Tract by the Occupy the Farm group.
But the take-over was very little discussed. Albany resident , who rented the room and organized the meeting, announced that this was not to be “a forum on the farm. This is not a discussion of what’s currently going on.” His intent for the meeting, he said, was to learn about the Gill Tract.
Presentations were given: on the high quality of the soil; on past efforts to turn the Gill Tract into a public farm; on the need to use Albany’s approval of the Whole Foods project as leverage to get an easement protecting the Gill Tract as agricultural land.
Only one or two speakers protested the Occupy efforts.
As people got up to speak, what emerged was a strong emotional attachment to the farmland at the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues, a desire to connect with that space, and a sense of frustration about not having access to the only farmland in town.
“I used to drive by the Gill Tract and the gates were always locked,” said Michael Beer, who works with Urban Roots/Friends of the Gill Tract and has long advocated for the space to become an urban farm. “The gates are open now,” he said, to applause.
An Albany mother described standing at the fence with her kids, wishing they could go in. Her children took field trips to Ardenwood in Fremont, she said, in order to see a working farm; she wished they could visit a farm right here in Albany.
Beer, after describing the type of agricultural park that Urban Roots would like to see on the Gill Tract said, “This is Albany. This is the small town ambiance we want to preserve.”
Miguel Altieri, a U.C. Berkeley professor who uses the land for research and who supports Occupy the Farm, was invited to the meeting, but not present, said McKnight.
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