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Image of author Tomi Hazel Vaarde together with other panelists for Earth Day panel at Gill Tract Farm. People sitting outside listening to a talk.

Earth Day at Magic at Gill Tract Farm

By Noelle Armstrong

April 26, 2023 | Sustainability & Ecology

The Gill Tract farm is a special place, born of a 2012 Occupy the Farm movement including 200 activists “taking back” the land and planting over 15,000 seedlings as a declaration that this land should belong to the people. Today, they partner with Sogorea Te’, an urban Indigenous women-led land trust, offering the opportunity to tend and receive from a medicinal plant spiral garden and abundant vegetables. They are also the East Bay’s largest overwintering site for the Western Monarch Butterfly and many of the plants they choose to include in this community space are known to attract this pollinator, whose population has been in decline for decades. This year’s B’Earth Day Festival hosted an uplifting conversation between Tomi Hazel Vaarde, author of Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place; Starhawk, whose foreword graces the book; Wanda Stewart, Executive Director of Common Vision, an organization that grows fruit orchards in low-income schools; and Cyrus Mayer, a local activist with a clear-eyed vision. They had already been talking for two hours before they arrived and the conversation felt ongoing and alive as they delved into this potent transitional time, inviting us to consider the radical potential of the commons and what it might look like to honor each individual’s humanity and history in tending land and making place together. The discussion overflowed with the strength of their collective vision.

Meanwhile, children ran around eating morning buns and a vat of vegan soup fed the masses. A tea mixing station invited us all to make a “magic brew” of plants grown onsite (maybe a bit of mullein, some catnip, or a fistful of fresh chamomile to dry on the sill?). The light seemed to touch everything.


Managing Editor Noelle Armstrong pictured with author of Social Forestry Tomi Hazel Vaarde and Karen Taylor

Noelle Armstrong

Managing Editor

Noelle Armstrong is a queer poet, editor and teacher in California who comes to Synergetic Press from Doubleblind Magazine. She received an MFA in interdisciplinary Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts and has been published in The Iowa Review, DoubleBlind Magazine, Oddville Press, rivulet & others. She believes in collaboration, learning in community, and creativity as a form of care.


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