Occupy Moves Into Hayes Valley Farm, Declares Sovereign State, Plants Kale
A group of Occupiers has moved into the tract of land formerly known as Hayes Valley Farm and renamed it Gezi Gardens, in solidarity with the protests going on in Turkey. Hayes Valley Farm moved out of the space on June 1, in accordance with an interim-use agreement with the city of San Francisco, because half of the block-wide tract has been sold to developers to make way for a 185-unit mixed-use development. The new group moved into the 2.2-acre parcel shortly thereafter in a bid to prevent that impending development.
The occupiers held a community meeting on Tuesday night to kick around ideas and get input from the neighbors. Of the 25 or so people clustered around rickety wooden benches and a tattered leather sofa under the eucalyptus trees in the center of the farm, about a third were from the neighborhood. Hayes Valley residents expressed their love for the educational working farm in the neighborhood and said they, by and large, preferred it over condos. Carol, a volunteer at the Project Homeless Connect community garden across the street at Page and Octavia, said that she was concerned that her space was next; that the city needs to "put the brakes" on developing public property.
But the largest part of the group was made up of protesters and stragglers who'd been attracted by what the space -- and its development -- could mean. One woman had come from two years at Occupy in New York; others had come from a similar protest in Texas and Occupy the Farm movement in Oakland. A red-haired, dreadlocked woman had a drum slung over her back from the Brass Liberation Orchestra; a man who called himself Diamond Dave (age indistinguishable), said that he'd hitchhiked in 1963 on the space's former incarnation as a freeway on-ramp, and never thought he'd be sitting there 50 years later, building community. "We can do more together than any of us can do on our own," he says.
Though the conversation in the group was ostensibly about preserving a space to continue to grow local food for the community, it meandered into rants against development and private property in general. There was a lot of talk about the earth and open space; how bureaucrats and developers have lost touch with the land. Committees were formed for neighborhood outreach and to make fliers for another community meeting on Saturday.
Anna Roth One of several banners hung on the perimeter of the Occupied farm.
But for all the discussion, and for all the efforts the group has been making in the space since they moved in last Saturday -- including re-planting vegetables, mostly greens, and creating cachments to distribute water in the most efficient way possible -- it was unclear what the best possible outcome could be. Because the land has already been sold, there was feeble talk of getting a fund together to buy it from developers. There was talk of setting up residence in trees. There was talk of persuading prominent community members and politicians to speak out. But very few tangible action items were drawn.
An SFPD officer on the scene said that no action was being taken right now to kick the occupiers out, but police were monitoring the situation. A member of the group tweeted on June 4 that police had visited the farm, but when told that the group didn't allow firearms into the space, the police had left.
For their part, the founders of Hayes Valley Farm have moved on and have no comment on the current occupiers of the space. The bees, the sheds, the seed library, many of the plants, and other resources from the farm have been distributed to "1-2 dozen" other urban farms around the city. Jay Rosenberg, one of the Hayes Valley Farm founders, has also founded the 49 Farms project, whose goal is to put an urban farm into every square mile of San Francisco.
Anna Roth The community's love for the farm, expressed in sidewalk chalk before it closed.
Hayes Valley Farm spokesperson Angela Goebel says that the group of volunteers who originally founded the farm has not disbanded. "Though [the physical Hayes Valley Farm] part of the project is concluded, we do see our work continuing through these legacy projects in San Francisco, and continue to advocate for interim-use projects," she says.
Those interested in having their voices heard about the Gezi Gardens project can go to the community meeting on Saturday at 3 p.m., at the farm on Laguna between Oak and Fell. There will be a barbecue, live music, and workshops starting at noon. You can also watch a Ustream tour of the space one member put up, and follow developments on Twitter at @liberatethefarm and #GeziGardens.