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On Top of the World

Country Home, July [September issue] 2005
Written by Lisa Holderness

MaryJane Butters personifies the new American farm girl. She developed and runs an organic farm on a mountainside in Idaho that is as much about cooking and creativity as it is about crops. As a food editor with a passion for living and eating green, I had embraced her MaryJanesFarm magazine, read longingly about her PayDirt Farm School, and cooked up her organic quick-prep foods and mixes with success—but what I really wanted was immersion into the whole MaryJanesFarm experience. My 10-year-old daughter, Emma (who dreams of becoming an organic farmer), was game, so we trekked to rural Moscow, Idaho.

MaryJane met us outside her barn (where she was tying up garlic to dry) with her warm smile, trademark twists of waist-length blonde braids, and a calm about her that didn’t seem typical of an entrepreneur with a big new book and a business on the upside of a steep growth curve. She led us down a private winding path and helped us settle into our wall tent furnished with antiques and feather beds. For the next three days, Emma stoked the woodburning stove, searched for free-range chicken eggs (the chickens roam the yard when not in their wallpapered coop), and filled up on strawberries as she picked them (the sweetest we’ve ever had).

MaryJane touches every part of the farm, harvesting cucumbers one minute and the next okaying a stitched project for her magazine or photographing a recipe for her new book. She still made time to sit around the campfire with us, Nick Ogle (the farmer next door whom she married), and her grown children, Meg and Emil, who were visiting. Her campfire stories of escapades as a forest ranger in her 20s and life as a single mom-organic farmer in her 30s were fascinating, and the food—prepared mostly outdoors—tasted fresh and felt satisfying. During our short visit, MaryJane did nothing short of renew our desire to slow it way down and remember the farm-girl basics. No wonder she calls her lifestyle “a condition of the heart.” She certainly captured mine and Emma’s.

Sidebar: Experience MaryJanesFarm—Literarily or Literally

Check out MaryJane’s recently released Ideabook •Cookbook •Lifebook ($35; Clarkson Potter) for recipes, directions for building your own wall tent, stories of her life, crafts, camping pointers, and more. She wrote the book and took most of the photos herself.
Pick up MaryJanesFarm magazine, which comes out twice a year and is available nationally. It’s filled with anecdotes, recipes, sewing projects, stories, and advice. Plus, it serves as a catalog for her line of MaryJanesFarm Organic quick-prep foods and mixes and other items she sells.

Plan a stay at the Farm. MaryJane runs a bed-and-breakfast, offering nights in her wall tents and dining on Shirred Eggs Florentine around the campfire. She also manages her PayDirt Farm School, which is an apprentice program. For more information, see the Web site.

[Posted with permission from Country Home magazine. Article from the September 2005 issue of Country Home magazine.]