Janet Beazlie, a Sierra Club member since 1983, has always been involved with conservation and growing food. Her grandparents homesteaded a dry-land wheat farm in western Montana, and she grew up hearing stories her mother told about living in a frontier farming community and riding her horse Brownie to the one-room schoolhouse. Life was challenging, and as her mother used to say, "We didn't know we were poor, because no one else in our community had more."
Her mom's stories were often about their neighbors banding together to build a barn and then holding a barn dance. Neighbors didn't always like each other, but people knew they only had each other to depend on. They shared food and water and pulled together in tough times.
Times have been tough recently for a lot of people in Sonoma County, California, where Janet now lives, and she has been involved with a special community event, the 350 Home & Garden Challenge, designed to bring people together, grow their own food, and save energy and water. That's Janet with her stepson Finn, at right, in their family garden.
In May 2010, community groups and county government agencies collaborated to kick off the inaugural event. The target was to start 350 gardens in Sonoma County over one weekend. People came together and planted nearly twice that many—628 gardens—many of them community gardens at churches, hospitals, and schools.
Last year, the event was coordinated by the group Daily Acts, whose mission is "to transform our communities through inspired action and education which builds leadership and local self-reliance." Home energy efficiency and water conservation were added to the list of actions people could take, and 1,044 such actions were officially registered throughout the county, including installation of 21 grey-water systems and transforming nearly 250 lawns through sheet mulching. ThroughTransitions US, the challenge was extended nationwide to so-called Transition Towns.