Click photo to enlarge
Occupy the Farm activist work the soil after returning to an Albany piece of land, owned by the University of California, called the Gill Tract in Albany, Calif., on Saturday, May 11, 2013. (Judith Scherr/Correspondent)

ALBANY -- Chanting "Whose farm? Our farm!" some 150 people marched from Albany City Hall to a weed-strewn plot of University of California-owned land where they yanked out 3-foot-tall weeds and planted squash and tomato seedlings.

The plot is adjacent to the land many of the same protesters occupied for three weeks in April and May last year before police removed them.

Protesters want the Gill Tract to become an urban farm, while the university said it uses the land for agricultural research. A development is planned for an area adjacent to the land which has not been agriculturally zoned in decades, university officials have said.

As protesters entered the area Saturday, bringing with them two chickens, three goats and a rabbit, police informed them via bullhorn that they were trespassing and subject to arrest. As of late Saturday afternoon, no arrests had been made.

The announcement did not trouble Occupy the Farm activist and urban farmer Ashoka Finley, who said that while some called their actions "illegal," the protest in fact was moral. "The community needs to manage public resources," he said, adding that they were "not just talking about (taking over the land), they were doing it."

"We're here to get this land preserved, to show that it is agricultural land," said Matthew McHale, an Occupy the Farm spokesman. McHale said they want to grow the food and give it away to the poor. And they want to set up an urban agricultural center to teach people to use available spaces to grow healthy food.

Across the street from the protest, UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes said the protesters were trespassing.

"For the last five years, we've been collaborating with the city and community" on a plan to develop the site for a grocery store and senior housing, she said. She added that, while protesters say they want to reclaim agricultural land, "the land hasn't been farmed for 70 years."

Albany Mayor Peggy Thomson was standing nearby.

"We're concerned about safety," she said, noting that protesters were crossing in the middle of Monroe Street and moving their cars in and out where they could hit pedestrians. She said Albany will benefit from the development with an estimated $200,000 annually in new property taxes. Thomson said the protesters should be going through the city planning process to make their opinions known.

Again, around 6 p.m., UC Berkeley police announced that the protesters were trespassing on university property -- the crowd responded with boos and jeers and the four police officers across the street from the protest continued to monitor the planting.

Lesley Haddock, Occupy the Farm spokeswoman, said the activists had gotten the message out "that an urban farm serves the East Bay better than any commercial development could ever do."

She said some people planned to camp overnight at the site. Whether the activities would continue after that would be decided at a meeting in the evening, Haddock said.