New Agricultural Operations Building now open at the Gill Tract

March 13, 2024
A photo of the facade of the Gill Tract Agricultural Operations Building

The Gill Tract's Agricultural Operations Building is located at 1050 Ohlone Avenue in Albany.

Recent visitors to the Gill Tract might have noticed something different: a large multipurpose facility has replaced the shipping containers on the research field adjacent to the Gill Tract Community Farm.

The new Agricultural Operations Building offers work, meeting, and storage space to the more than 50 faculty, staff, and community members who frequent the Albany site. It opened on December 15, 2023, after a year of construction and roughly two years of planning by Rausser College of Natural Resources and UC Berkeley’s Capital Strategies.

“This is the College’s first new agricultural building since I started here more than 20 years ago, and it was very exciting to get done,” said Tina Wistrom, facility manager for the Oxford and Gill Tracts. “The University and College were very supportive of this project, and we were lucky to work with them and the contractor on it.”

The new building replaced an old tractor operations building that was insufficient to meet the operational and accessibility needs of the Gill Tract’s researchers and farmers. That building was demolished to allow UC Berkeley to begin constructing the Albany Village Graduate Student Apartments, set to open this fall. Wistrom said the University provided temporary storage for Gill Tract users while plans were made to replace the site with a new building.

Image of Tina Wistrom, Facility Manager at the Gill Tract standing in front of red tractor.

Top: Facilities Manager Tina Wistrom stands near a tractor in the equipment bay at the Agricultural Operations Building. Bottom: The Agricultural Operations Building as seen from the Gill Tract Community Farm.

“Farm operations spent a year in three shipping containers, which made us appreciate this building even more,” Wistrom said of the 6,000-square-foot building. While the containers provided some space, “many tools and items were stored offsite, in a storage locker, or out in the open in the fields.”

“Having this building is like a whole new world,” said Effie Rawlings, a longtime farmer and Gill Tract Farm Coalition organizer. “A lot of people and community members of different ages and abilities use the farm, so having a place that can accommodate them makes a big difference.”

Since opening last December, the facility has hosted 4-H meetings, farm work days, and even a retreat for the lab of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management professor Timothy Bowles. Wistrom said the contractor plans to complete a few finishing touches, like running an irrigation line from the facility to the nearby agricultural research fields.

“We are experiencing great interest and growth in urban agriculture and the provision of healthy food to our neighbors,” said Dennis Baldocchi, executive associate dean and director of agriculture and natural resource programs at Rausser College. “The new Agricultural Operations Building will help us achieve this mission, given the proximity of our Agricultural Experiment Station to the cities of Albany, Berkeley, and El Cerrito.”

The new building is located at 1050 Ohlone Way in Albany. Rausser College of Natural Resources faculty, researchers with field plots at Gill Tract, and Community Farm users are able to reserve the building’s multipurpose room—which features conference-style seating for 8, a working kitchenette, wifi, and a restroom.