Defending The Gill Tract: Druid Thoughts

There are a lot of things I could be writing about here, like how an ancient Irish goddess has been blamed by a Neopagan blogger for America’s attack on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about I will spare you the details) but here’s something more important.

A local frontline on the real war against our planet is the attempt by the University of California regents to sell off the last remaining farmland in the Berkeley area. At present there are 20 acres left out of an original 100 of an old farm known as the Gill Tract, which was acquired many decades ago by the University. There is a wonderful community organic farm there, producing incredible produce and herbs. Nothing like a bit of gardening and then picking kale and chard and going home and cooking it up! There are also groves and a seasonal creek(s), providing a wildlife sanctuary, which harbors a flock of wild turkeys, something you don’t often see in an urban area. Unfortunately, the adjoining field has been fenced off, and over 50 trees cut down and uprooted earlier in the year; now this area is to be bulldozed and developed for a corporate supermarket and expensive elderly housing. The group Occupy The Farm is protesting this and putting up defense.

A farmers' shrine.
A farmers’ shrine.

Privatization is driving this, so yet another attempt to destroy one small remaining commons that really feels like an oasis. An adjoining tract is being run as a GMO testing site. The contrast between the two is startling, to say the least.

According to the Occupy the Farm site:

Through the past half-century, the defunding of the University of California has gone hand in hand with increased corporate funding. This has shifted research and education away from the interests of the public towards the interests of private corporations. The history of the Gill Tract Farm is an emblematic case study of this shift. The late 1990s saw the final stage in the dismantling of the Biological Control Research Station, a pioneer in integrated pest management, as well as an unprecedented donation to the College of Natural Resources from the biotech-company, Novartis. Today, much of the land is used for corn genetics research for patents, and is under threat of privatized development into a green-washed corporate supermarket.

View of the farm looking toward Albany Hill.
View of the farm looking toward Albany Hill.


In an era of increasing drought, climate change, and hunger, the Gill Tract Farm provides a rare resource for urban agriculture, a living museum of the long history of the East Bay, and an irreplaceable habitat and resource for building resilient communities. The Gill Tract is the last remaining 20 acre piece of historic farmland in the now densely populated East Bay.  Until Spanish colonization, this land was stewarded by the Ohlone people, and today we attempt to honor this legacy by connecting with local indigenous communities, and respecting traditional indigenous agricultural knowledge. For centuries, the land has been fed by the rising and receding of three creeks, creating rich soil and habitat for diverse ecosystems. The UC’s proposed paving of this land does not responsibly steward this irreplaceable resource that they hold in the public trust.

More info here:

Echinacea in the herb garden.
Echinacea in the herb garden.

Local Druid activist Treviños Rios is doing magical and ritual work bringing the unseen into the actions here to save the farm and its adjoining lands. We did ritual a while ago and the response was strong and obvious. This is a perfect example of how building relationships with the local spirits and calling the attention to appropriate deities adds another important dimension to activist defenses. I believe these kind of local commitments are what we need to do as pagans and polytheists.

Rios in the grove.
Rios in the grove.

3 thoughts on “Defending The Gill Tract: Druid Thoughts

  1. I am so sorry to hear this, and I hope Occupy the Farm will be successful in its efforts.

    Ugh…and not only is this something to be angry over in terms of privatization and profiteering, but also yet another demonstration that our supposed “centers of learning and education” are actually “centers of wealth accumulation” for a very limited and over-bloated few at the expense of everyone: students, the public, staff, and professors…

    As far as the stupid arguments going on else-blogosphere: yeah, I agree. I am going to write something about that for soon, and hopefully it will be posted this week.

  2. It is a travesty how our ‘public’ university systems have become so privatized and become research sites for many of the corporations that claim no public responsibility. U.C. Berkeley just a few years ago cut down old growth California oaks on the campus so building could be expanded. There were tree sitting protesters but the trees came down in the long run. “Centers for wealth accumulation” indeed. Seems the loss of colleges as a semi-free other force in society has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of unbridled capitalism. I couldn’t agree more how the bloated few ‘administrating’ are skimming the resources off at the expense of the rest, including students and professors!

    Glad to hear you’re going to write about that. The claiming of the One-Eyed Wanderer as possessing the Germans during the Nazi rise is such a tired old chestnut too; I would have expected better of the blogger. And how can an Irish goddess(es) the vast majority of American have never heard of be driving them to make war in the Middle East!? I can’t follow his ‘logic’.

    1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t think the concept of “logic” can even be meaningfully introduced where he is concerned. His attempts at theological commentary, as I have said on other occasions, cannot in any sense be valid since there is no theos in his logos, never can be, and (unless he either changes, has some other experience, or something) never will be. *shrugs*

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