An open letter from UC Berkeley Dean Keith Gilless to the Albany community

In a new open letter to the Albany community, Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources, provides an update concerning activity on the growing grounds of the Gill Tract.

To: Members of the Albany City Council, and the Albany community at large
From: J. Keith Gilless. Dean, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources
Date: November 16, 2012

As we move into the fall season, I want to provide you, our neighbors, with an update on current and planned activities on the Gill Tract. Over the course of the last few weeks, our researchers have completed work that was underway during the growing season and now, as I’m sure many of you have noticed, our staff has begun to prepare the fields for the winter.

As I outlined in my last letter on Sept. 18, next spring we will be using all of the growing grounds in order to accommodate existing research and teaching endeavors, as well as our newly expanded program dedicated to the investigation of food systems and food security issues. We have been removing all drip irrigation and mulching, mowing remaining plant material, and turning over the soil with tractor-towed discs in order to prepare the fields for a winter cover crop that will replenish soil nitrogen and add organic material to the ground.

Much of our planning process for the next growing season is focused on work already underway at our emerging program in urban food systems and food security. This program is being spearheaded by existing faculty, and will receive further support in the coming years by the addition of a new Cooperative Extension (CE) Specialist for the Berkeley Campus and 3 CE Advisors in the Bay Area. These positions were approved by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, demonstrating our commitment to research, teaching and extension in this rapidly evolving area of academic and social interest.

We will continue to work collaboratively with members of the Albany community and the Albany City Council as we move forward with the exciting work of developing a program that will benefit communities throughout the Bay Area, California and beyond. I remain interested in and committed to developing partnerships that could allow for significant community participation in agricultural activities on the Gill Tract.

I must reiterate how unfortunate it is that members of the group Occupy the Farm have continued their illegal incursions onto the Gill Tract to engage in unauthorized use of University resources. In mid-September we gave them advance notice that all of the growing grounds would need to be planted with a cover crop this winter, yet in recent weeks they have continued with their unauthorized planting. I truly regret that they chose to spend their time and efforts on planting that we have had to disc under, rather than seek ways to work with my college and the community. Their disregard for the rights of our research community and programmatic development activities are a direct threat to both academic freedom and our capacity to fulfill the University’s mission.

I remain committed to moving forward in a manner which respects all voices and perspectives in the Albany community, and honors past, present and future democratic community processes.