ALBANY -- UC Berkeley plans to use words instead of police power to remove about 50 Occupy members who on Sunday started farming a plot of university land in Albany called the Gill Tract, a spokesman said Tuesday.
"There's dialogue going on and discussion going on so we can bring it to a peaceful conclusion," said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. "Discussion may lead to a better outcome."
The land near San Pablo Avenue and Buchanan Street is currently used for agricultural research, Mogulof said. A separate parcel of land just south of where the Occupy farmers have set up is slated for commercial development, including a Whole Foods and a seniors housing complex.
Mogulof said UC Berkeley police are administering daily admonishments to the group about trespassing, but the university has not issued a deadline for them to leave.
Occupy the Farm to Take Back the Gill Tract member Gopal Dayaneni said the university cut off water to the area, so the farmers are bringing in their own and hand watering 15,000 seedlings they planted to grow beans, chard, squash, broccoli and other edible items.
He also said the group has one "completely closed" composting toilet for farmers and two portable toilets.
"Our primary purpose isn't to camp, it's to farm" Dayaneni said Tuesday, although people are camping overnight.
Dayaneni said the group hopes to avoid an Occupy situation where the site attracts criminals and substance abusers by imposing a rule that anyone who shows up must work.
"We're super clear about the fact that this is a farm," Dayaneni said. "Those who do the work make the decisions."
Those working the soil on Tuesday were sweaty and dirty. Melvin Dickson, 71, of Berkeley came out Sunday and was there again Tuesday raking weeds.
"It was Earth Day Sunday and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do to address the issues that working class people have today," Dickson said. "We need sustainability. People have to come together to address our basic needs."
Dayaneni said the group planned the occupation of the Gill Tract for six months. They grew seedlings in various places around the Bay Area before bringing them to the land. But they have not decided how to distribute the vegetables once they are ready to eat -- if they make it that long without being removed.
"This is the new face of Occupy," Dayaneni said. "Once the land is protected for sustainable agriculture, there won't need to be an encampment. "This is a way of taking the Occupy movement to scale in a way that's meaningful."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.