An Open Letter from Students of the State of California

An Open Letter from Students of the State of California in support of a Center for Urban Agriculture and Food Justice on all remaining twenty acres of the historic Gill Tract Farm.

To those more deeply committed to public education than
Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California
Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor of University of California, Berkeley
and the Regents of the University of California

4/22/2015, Earth Day

It is in the public interest of the state of California and the world for our land-grant public research university to pursue research and education for a living future.

As students from across the state of California, we believe that our public higher education system should serve the research and education needs of the people of our state- including the overwhelming need for us to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and the looming disasters we as students will experience in our lifetime.

It is time that our public education system seriously contend with the research and education our generation needs to transition away from an extractive, fossil-fuel dependent system, to one that is regenerative, equitable, and which values the fundamental necessities of life.

Transforming our unjust food system is critical for this transition. Industrial agriculture contributes 40% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and has substantial equity issues of labor, environmental justice, and access to healthy produce. Small-scale, local, sustainable agriculture has emerged worldwide as a feasible solution to these problems, and urban agriculture has rapidly expanded as part of the movement for food justice and climate justice. (Read more of SEAL’s analysis in Food, Fuel & Warming: https://sealstudents.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/fuel-food-warming/).

The Gill Tract Farm provides an ideal resource for a community-driven Center for Urban Agriculture and Food Justice.

The Gill Tract is the last remaining 20 acres of what was an 100 acre farm that the UC bought in 1929 for the purposes of agricultural research and education. Local community members have been advocating that this land be used for education and research since 1997, but the university has instead pushed for a privatized, corporate development, including a greenwashing supermarket that perpetuates the injustices in our food system, including climate impacts. Today, the tide has turned in public opinion about urban agriculture, and urban farms are emerging around the world, with their own unique needs for research and education. (Read more about the kinds of research that could occur in such a center in the Letter from UC Researchers and Educators: https://sealstudents.wordpress.com/letter-from-uc-researchers-and-educators/)

With such favorable circumstances for the creation of this critically-needed center, why does our land grant public university continue to pursue a short-sighted corporate development plan, paving over a rare educational resource?

In the past several years, we have witnessed the state disinvestment in higher education, the mismanagement of public resources by public stewards like the UC Regents, and the corporate investment in research and education. These changes not only raise our tuition, they have also directed our public research university to research in corporate interest, perpetuating the deeply rooted problems of climate change that we now experience. These changes have also led to our public stewards selling off our public resources, like the Gill Tract, that could be the sources of community resilience and innovative solutions in the face of climate disaster.

As students that have the opportunity to study these issues in our public higher education, it is our duty to take a stand. We do not support the UC’s perpetuation of our destructive food system through their corporate, privatized development project paving the historic Gill Tract Farm.

We believe that our public higher education system should be accessible to everyone, and that it should meet the needs of the public, not corporate interests. We believe that the people of the state of California and the world deserve a community-driven Center for Urban Agriculture and Food Justice. We support the community and student movement for such a center on all twenty remaining open acres of the historic Gill Tract Farm.

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