Tucked away in the sleepy Northern edge of UC Berkeley's campus, the Barker Guerrilla Garden has reaped bountiful harvest since its founding in 2013 thanks to the collective effort of many passionate students. This time of year, the unassuming garden has a plethora of native California medicinal plants, as well as edible produce like kale, potatoes, fava beans, and fennel. 

Sowing Seeds

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The Barker Garden is much more than a pretty spot for a lunch break. The founders viewed it as a political statement—a way for students to play a role in the management of campus spaces by demanding access to land. The garden was also a response to the whiteness of UC Berkeley’s professors and curricula. They created formalized spaces where decolonized curriculum could be taught and shared by BIPOC and queer students between each other and to the greater campus community. At the same time, the garden addressed high rates of food security in BIPOC and queer student communities by partnering with campus food banks. The founders of the garden remind us that “the gardens and the campus itself are on Huichin Village, sacred territory of the Chochenyo Ohlone people, and emphasize native land stewardship and their role as students in pushing the university to give reparations and return ancestral remains found during the development of the school.” 


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The garden was a success, receiving grants from The Green Initiative Fund and even having its own Decal (student-led class). The Decal ran for 8 semesters until Covid hit in the spring of 2020. When garden managers graduated in the midst of the pandemic, the space lay forgotten by both the students and the university. As a final project for an Agricultural Ecology class last semester, a group of students and I spent days weeding and planting Native medicinals and produce to honor the vision of the garden’s original founders. Vivian Feldheim, the student gardener who spearheaded the project, explains her personal motivation for reviving the garden. She says, “Being able to grow your own food is the ultimate freedom. I believe that shifting our food system would work and solve so many environmental and social problems.”

Giving Back

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Even though it has only been a few months since the garden was revived, I can see how we are already reaping its benefits. Last month, my group and I harvested kale we planted last November and donated four boxes to the local food bank. The process was extremely rewarding. Vivian says, “Not only does a garden serves the community, it provides a space to grow food, research for educational purposes, and attracts pollinators and native species. It’s also nice to have pretty green spaces on campus for people to sit and enjoy.”  

Community Roots and Land Grabs

Today, the Barker Guerrilla Garden is under the threat of  UC Berkeley administration. To understand the condition of Barker Guerilla Garden, we must get a sense of Berkeley’s history with community spaces. In 1969, the Berkeley community created what is now People’s Park by cleaning up a lot owned by UC Berkeley, creating infrastructure, and planting trees and flowers. The UC Gill Tract, a community garden in Albany owned by the UC Regents, shares a similar history. In 2009, the Gill Tract was demolished to make way for new developments. However, protests emerged in 2012 when people realized that the land was abandoned. Over 200 activists encamped on the site and planted over 15,000 seedlings in a protest that is now known as the Occupy the Farm Movement. In 2013, the University entered a 10-year agreement to preserve the Gill Tract.

How to Help

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The university is trying to take away the Barker Guerrilla Garden because they say that the space is “structurally unfit for gardening”—despite no major structural concerns in the garden's nine years and many trees that have been planted the by the university. If you are interested in getting involved in preserving the Barker Guerrilla Garden and its many fruitful benefits, please complete this form, follow @barkerguerrillagarden on Instagram for information on gardening hours open to anyone, and join the Berkeley Student Farms slack here.