On Earth Day April 22, 2012, I received a text: a couple hundred urban farmers were marching onto ten plus acres of fallow farmland and the site of a former agricultural research center known as the Gill Tract. The farmers hoped to stop development of a shopping mall and condo complex on the site of the former research station, and de-rail plans that threatened to remove the class one agricultural land from farming. The activists brought with them 16,000 seedlings, roto tillers, shovels and tents. Within a few hours, they’d planted an acre of vegetables, put up a big banner that read: Occupy the Farm, and set up a tent village to defend the crops.
The battle over the last large piece of farmland in California’s East Bay raged for months. This successful direct action altered the fate of this land owned by the University of California at Berkeley, sent urban agriculture into local headlines, and demonstrated how hopes for social justice can become a reality. This, the urban farmers announced, was “Occupy 2.0.”
We picked up our cameras that very first day and continued to follow the story over the next five months. And, we realized that these urban farmers succeeded because they physically reminded people of their fundamental connection to the land and the earth.
Our cameras “occupied” the occupation. We witnessed the dramatic and rapid evolution of tactics and strategy of both the farmers and their adversaries – officials from the University of California. As a result, OCCUPY THE FARM captures a significant and on-going conflict: the showdown between over-development and agriculture, as well as the contest of wills between a grassroots, consensus based action, and the more rigid power structure of California’s largest landowner. OCCUPY THE FARM reveals a new form of activism for the 21st Century.
I’m asking you to join me in helping to share this powerful story with the world. Please tell your friends, and stay connected through Facebook and Twitter as we finish the film for release Fall 2014.
Todd Darling, Director