The Long Island Food Not Bombs guerrilla gardening project at Mirschel Park was a huge success. We planted tens-of-thousands of sunflower seeds across thousands of square feet of the park with the help of nearly a hundred volunteers over a three-day weekend of community direct action.

To learn more about what happened, read various perspectives on the event, see pictures and even throw down some of your own thoughts, which we hope you do. Please check out the link below.

 http://www.lifnb.com/report_back/discussion_thoughts_mirschel_park_community_gardening_project

**********

The Long Island Food Not Bombs (LIFNB) community gardening project at Mirschel Park was as shiny as the sunflowers we planted -- okay, I'm starting off cheesy, I know, but hear me out.

What we achieved was an awesome amount of work and I'm not talking about the 2,500 square feet of brambles and weeds we transformed into tilled fertile earth or the thousands of sunflower seeds we planted. What I'm talking about is how "We" came together to pull that off.

One of the goals of gardening was to clean up and transform the not-so-inviting Mirschel Park into a beautiful public space and that’s what we've begun to do. While cleaning up we found some of the most ridiculous trash you can imagine - glass bottles, hypodermic needles, bags of drugs, underwear and over a dozen or so knifes and shanks. These items will no longer be a danger to park goers in the future.

We found some wondrous things too. There were the snakes we discovered in a hill of rocks and a vegetable garden hidden away behind the condemned apartment projects - we hope that its mysterious guerilla gardener appreciates the chive plants we added.

We made a bunch of new friends who we got to stand side-by-side with and we found solidarity with our old ones who stood by us in support.

I say again that what we got done was an awesome amount of work. When we were planning this event we created lofty goals for ourselves. The fact we accomplished more than we set out for is a testament to how strong we've all grown.

We achieved all this with an army of two dozen children ages 6-10 who helped us pull weeds and dig through dirt while larger folks, hoes in hand, tilled the earth. Some dug stumps out the ground and others placed plants back in it. People sharing groceries and cutting watermelon gave everyone something to snack on; when we took breaks it was all together; and when we planted it was all together.

Needless to say, if these flowers all grow Mirschel Park will look incredible, magical even. Imagining a wall of giant yellow flowers encircling the half square mile of park is inspiring but not as inspiring as the seeds of solidarity we're creating. My hopes are that these seeds we've sowed grow, and shine - across Hempstead, Long Island and even ways away.

We say loudly -- This is Solidarity, Not Charity. At Food Shares, LIFNB doesn't give handouts; we share alongside the community. While gardening, LIFNB improves empty lots and public spaces with the community, side-by-side. When we grow as an organization it's because the communities around us grow.

That growth has at times been tough and filled with adversity. Last year, in our first gardening project, hundreds came out to help us transform a huge vacant lot in Hempstead into a beautiful garden.

The powers that be destroyed that garden. They were afraid of the community it was creating and afraid that their business plans to gentrify the neighborhood were threatened. The town illegally bulldozed our garden and hundreds were outraged. This, however, did not destroy our hearts. In fact, in this adversity we became more resolved then ever to push forward.

Together, that’s just what we've all started to do. Mirschel Park is just the beginning. We encourage you to follow this example, you don't need to ask permission to make your lives better or to improve your town - just do it.

Your community is yours, if there's an empty lot near your home take it over, if there's an ugly concrete wall paint a mural over it. If your neighbors are hungry feed them, we'll show you how. If there are people oppressing your community, organize and strike back.

The world we want to live in is waiting for us; we just have to start living in it.

Love & Liberation.
JonSTeps & Long Island Food Not Bombs.

**********

Thoughts about the Mirschel Park gardening project

"To my right, a steep, small hill rose to a cement wall. Verdant is one of my favorite words -- it's related to the Spanish word "verde," which means green. "Verdant" is "green with vegetation" and the hill was that, clusters of vines and wide leaves and grasses spilling over each other, all different kinds of green.

Strange to tear them up, fist around the stem of the plant, hoping that the grip is strong enough, the soil loose enough, for roots to give way. When someone came by with the weed waker we stood back, listening to its drone. It sounded like bees, or an engine.

The kids gardening with us spilled over each other like leaves, and when they spoke always another started speaking, and their voices braided together like vines growing up the chain-link fence on the other side of the park. "He's James -- I'm Kendel" and more names. The names I remember most are the names of the worms Haemon found. A family of Maniacs. Mama Maniac and Daddy Maniac and Big Brother Maniac and Baby Maniac. He put them in a bucket with dirt and covered it with leaves, holding it with both hands.

We found more worms. The rakes, hoes, all the gardening tools were taller than the children holding them.

We moved to the chain-link fence on the opposite side. This was easier work than digging up the weeds on the hillside. Here, the plants gave out easily, and more kids joined up. They threw the plants they pulled out onto the grassy field, dust spinning. Three middle school girls, one on a bicycle, worried aloud to me. What if someone ruined the flowers that we were going to plant?

You never realize both how frail and how strong food is until your hands are in the ground. It's both the simplest thing and the most miraculous thing that seeds turn into plants, that food does grow on trees. If the sunflowers don't grow, I hope we'll try again next year.”- Monica Wendel

**********

“Things went great with gardening, better than expected actually. The progress we made on Friday evening with the 10+ of us was outstanding. The fact that we were able to finish exactly what we had planned in only 3 days just goes to show what people are capable of when they come together. The park is going to look revitalized once all of those sunflowers are in full bloom.”- Alex Witcowski

**********

“The Community Garden was a meaningful experience for me. Ever since I became involved with Food Not Bombs, I feel more hopeful about people in general. Preparing the ground for our sunflower seeds has been hard work, fun, but most important I feel connected with new friends, with a neighborhood of children. Children that are full of energy, sometimes too much for me, but nonetheless, there was a connection there. I liked watching the kids collect worms and trying to get them to get along with each other. Even when someone had more worms than another. Reminding them to keep the shovels below their heads and not to swing the hoe too close to someone.

I, like the kids, loved break time and the sharing of food.

My favorite part was on Sunday, planting the seeds. I hope the Sunflowers grow tall. Actually, I hope they just grow! I look forward to coming back and watching the progress with everyone.” –Rose Zacchi

**********

“My Garden Experience: The most meaningful message this gardening sends to me is caring. Caring without looking for anything in return other than to be able to help people and make them happy or more content about life for a while. As we know life is not always easy. Its not just about money, or the contrast of poverty and wealth, some have more than others, some have less. We all could use a helping hand at different stages of our lives both economically and emotionally. I think its more about giving, the nurturing force of feeding people, and demonstration of compassion for others. Those qualities and emotions are as beautiful as any flowers that may or may not grow in "the garden". The real beauty is in the caring for people. In that sense the Garden within one's heart fills with love. I would like to think that years from now I will look back on this garden experience, with memories of the beauty of the hearts of some young people and a few older that came together and tried to make a positive difference in the lives of a community that had it a bit harder than other communities, and this experience shed some love and positive light into their lives in late May in 2009, making their community richer in love which is far more valuable than dollars and cents.

Best Always to the young people of Food Not Bombs” - John Mahon

**********

“The first night was awesome to see everyone come out of the woodwork and get dirty. We all brought something to the planning table.

The second day had so many different battles but became rewarding to me. The kids that came back to help from the first night and the parents that started to show interest. We were near some uncomfortable situations but it gave us a reason to power through.

I was really tired on Sunday but then there were all these people helping with the food pick-up and the food share. And we got to share incredible amounts of food with our friends.

I got my energy back when we made the giant caravan over to Mirschel Park. All these hands helping and smiles everywhere!

I really feel like we put down some sturdy framework for a great community garden. We can do something great and have a long way to grow!” – Vincent Cocca

**********

"When I first got there I was really overwhelmed by the task ahead of us and with Vinnie's knowledge about every weed and their damaging potential, a bit concerned. However, we got to work and pulling out the weeds became progressively easier and dare I say fun? The children saw this and began to help. To see them actually enjoying themselves and telling us that they would continue to come back and make sure it "stays pretty" as Jaden told me was a really uplifting.

I was excited to get back to gardening the next day, and though I was late I sped over from work and saw a bunch of new kids digging their hands in the dirt. I enjoyed every aspect of gardening, even if it meant getting made fun of by some men playing soccer because I couldn't correctly use the weed wacker. Everyone was so exhausted by the end, but we trudged through it knowing that what we were doing was so much more than creating a garden. We were creating a movement and hopefully a memory for everyone involved, especially the children.

Though I wasn't involved on last day, no matter how much I would of loved to been. I'm sure that all went well, and I'm sure that in a couple of weeks we'll be looking at a beautiful garden."- Maria Soria Moccia