News & Awards

Offering praise and prose for the farming life

Lexington, Kentucky, Herald-Leader
May, 2005

by Sharon Thompson

Reading MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook makes you want to sit on the front porch, kick your shoes off, spin a few tales and dream about raising chickens.

MaryJane Butters is an entrepreneur, environmental activist and founder of a magazine called-MaryJanesFarm in Moscow, Idaho. She began writing at 45, when she needed to create a mail-order catalog for her line of organic foods. Her combination catalog and magazine found its way into Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart, among other stores, and now she's written her first book, subtitled For the Farmgirl in All of Us.

A Kentucky entrepreneur, Jennifer Gleason, who lives on the Mason and Robertson county line, is included in Butters' book: "I've been making jams my entire life, but Jennifer Gleason, an organic farmer from Kentucky, had me on my knees asking, 'What's the secret ingredient in your jams?'" Gleason told Butters it's what she doesn't add: pectin. "The flavor and texture of Jennifer's jams and mustards are far superior to anything I've found, organic or otherwise," Butters wrote.

Butters' definition of "farm girl" is "a condition of the heart." But it's really more than that. There are plenty of women who are real farm girls. Women comprise the fastest-growing group of people buying small farms right now: 27.2 percent of agriculture producers were women in 2002, up from 12.6 in 1997, according to former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

One thing most modern farm girls want is an easy meal, and Butters has a food concept that allows people not only to spend less on their food bill but "avoid the entire middle section of a grocery store -- the section where all the expensive, dyed, denatured and preserved foods are." Butters wants people to routinely shop their local farmers' markets.

She calls one of her ideas the BakeOver. It's a one-skillet savory meal or sweet dessert that can be made with virtually any combination of fresh vegetables or fruit, and it's ready in 20 minutes.

The skillet that works best is a rounded, deep, non-stick pan (like a wok). On her Web site,, Butters sells 9-inch and 11-inch skillets with collapsible handles. Her BakeOver mixes -- from black bean corn bread to scones -- match your choice of vegetables or fruit.

If you eat dairy or meat, you can add grated or cubed cheese, fish, tofu or any boned meat to the vegetables. To the fruit, you can add a layer of cream cheese.

After you've chopped or sliced the vegetables or fruit that you want, you'll saute them (3 to 5 minutes) in your skillet and place one of her mixes (or "lids") on top like a pie crust. After the skillet is in the oven for 20 minutes, you'll flip the contents upside down onto a plate and serve.

You'll need 4 cups of vegetables or fruit (6 cups for a large skillet) and 1 package of mix. There are no limits to what you can create. You can use up the old carrots in your refrigerator along with an onion, or you can chop up bell peppers and add a layer of cooked black beans, or cabbage and kale, or cubed-tofu, celery or potatoes with herbs and squash, or garlic and mushrooms, or just mushrooms, or just onions, if that's all you have, she said.

For dessert, you can slice up some apples or thaw some frozen peach slices, drain them and add a few raspberries, strawberries and cranberries, or add some raisins, cinnamon, figs, coconut, maple syrup, honey, almonds or walnuts, then top them with one of her sweet mixes (chocolate-chip cookies, scones or brownies). Or you can make your own basic crust recipe from scratch.

Basic Crust Recipe
11/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Add water, form dough into a ball, and roll out a top crust.
To make BakeOver: After you've chopped or sliced the vegetables or fruit, add seasonings and saute mixture for 3 to 5 minutes in butter or oil in your skillet over medium heat. Place the crust on top of the fruit or vegetables like a pie crust. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Flip contents upside down onto a plate, and serve.