MaryJane Butters lives in Idaho, where she farms, runs a very successful enterprise MaryJanesFarm and writes about how to do all the things we women long to learn. MaryJane is farmgirl extraordinaire and in her newest book Milk Cow Kitchen is out and you are going to have a chance to win an autographed copy.
I was blessed to meet MaryJane, her daughter Meg, son in law Lucas and baby Stella back in March of 2007 when she was launching her partnership with Belk. My first impression of meeting her in person after having talked to her many times over the phone was that MaryJane and family are the real deal. She has a way of making you feel like you “belong” immediately. She’s warm and funny and just as genuine as they come. I knew the first time I ever spoke to her she was probably the most determined, confident woman I had ever met. She had goals and dreams and she was going to see them through and leave her mark on this world. And that is exactly what she is doing. She is THE farmgirl and has taught and encouraged so many who have found her website and forums and Sisterhood. When I joined the Farmgirl Sisterhood back in December of 2007, I was number 15 and now there are over 6000!
I have sang MaryJane’s praises for many years now and I know I can’t do her justice in a few questions but I am going to give it my best. And you can’t really get to know her in a few answers but you will feel like you do. She’s strong and inspirational and has taken so many women on this journey with her, if you aren’t already in love, you will be.
In doing research for this post, looking back over what has been asked and answered and trying desperately to bring something new to y’all, I finally decided my post is different in that I have met MaryJane Butters. THE MaryJane Butters in the flesh. Broke bread with MaryJane Butters and I have done business with MaryJane Butters. So this interview or Q&A if you will, is personal. Her motto is “Farmgirl is a condition of the heart.” It really and truly is. Since that meeting my life has taken a 180 turn…country woman to city woman. However, you can take me to the city, but you can’t take the country out of me. All the things I loved about MaryJane and all the things she’s about are still near and dear to my heart. Like her website says “We are Sisters — a sisterhood of farmgirls. We’re country, we’re city, and every texture and stripe in between. It’s not at all about where we live, but how we live.” I know you are going to want to be a part of that if you aren’t already.
Without further ado, meet my friend, MaryJane Butters!
1) NQJC: I find it hard to believe but there might be women out there who haven’t met you through your magazine, website, sisterhood and organic products. So let’s pretend you are meeting the readers of this for the first time. What is the first thing you would want to tell about yourself? “Hello, my name is MaryJanes Butters and I am…”
MJB: I am the conduit for a language that had been archived, not erased, and not entirely forgotten, just mothballed. It’s the language of women who once knew how to speak fluent 4H (home, hearth, hogs, and handmade). The name of the language had been forgotten so I gave it a name, Farmgirl. And in true-blue farmgirl fashion, I got rid of the space between farm and girl and brought them together again, made them one. And the very minute a woman hears it, Farmgirl, she’s flooded with remembrance. Once the memory of it is triggered, it’s a language we speak easily and fluently. We get it!
2) NQJC: Before we get to the business at hand, tell us a little about your childhood and how it shaped you and what you believe to be important in life.
MJB: I grew up in Utah in a self-sufficient family of seven. My parents were enamored with Robert Rodale, the founder of the magazine, Organic Gardening. Consequently, we grew our own food, raised chickens and rabbits for meat, made our own clothes, drank raw milk from my uncle’s dairy farm, and went camping almost every weekend, essentially turning make-do into a religion. Thrift and industry made us tick, well, actually it kept us hopping. Someone who once experienced my family said, “It’s like you’re all in a popcorn popper.”
3) NQJC: Tell us about your home in Palouse, Idaho and all the things you offer there.
MJB: I actually live outside Moscow, Idaho in a region called the Palouse, which refers to a land covered in mounds of topsoil deposited here by ancient winds. In other words, it’s fecund and fertile, the perfect place for someone wanting to meld farm with girl. And with a last name like Butters and the cow in Moscow, wouldn’t you know it, I also have a dairy. Sometimes one’s destiny is a mere donut dunk.
4) NQJC: Having just introduced your 5th book and publishing a magazine that is of the highest quality, tell us a little about that journey and how you landed a multi-book deal and what you think has made you so successful.
MJB: The next issue of my magazine, MaryJanesFarm, is a “celebration of 15 years, 50 issues.” My vision of it, well before digital anything, was cut and pasted onto paper, put into a three-ring binder, and mailed to a woman in Chicago who I’d read about in a magazine. She was a “connector” type as mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.” She wrote me back! Next, her NYC book agent called me. “You’ve had such an interesting life, you should write an autobiography.” That idea wasn’t of interest to me, but the idea of an ideabook was. So eight months after he first contacted me, I called him one day, “Okay, how does one go about writing a book proposal?” He sent me their standard format. I called him back, “This doesn’t fit who I am .How on earth would I know how to do a market analysis?” He said, “You know, I’m getting tired of those proposals myself. Why don’t you write something from your heart?” That ended up being 64 pages long, the proposal for MaryJane’s Ideabook, Lifebook, and Cookbook.” He shopped my proposal around and landed me a book deal with Random House for 1.35 millions dollars. “Fine then,” I said. “Looks like I’ll be writing a book.” Hubby (in disbelief) lent a hand by fixing me breakfast every morning. What made me successful? Bacon and eggs. Cream. And butter.
5) NQJC: I have been a fan of yours for so many years and have met so many women who YOU are what we first have in common what do you consider your biggest accomplishment in the business world?
MJB: I am most proud of the fact that two of my adult children and their spouses work here at my farm full-time. I especially love it that my husband and I get to work together, at home, on the land, at the end of a dirt road. Yesterday, he surprised me by showing up in my milking parlor just in time to entertain my girls, Miss Daisy and Maizy, while I milked them. He gave them music lessons and then he gave them a long-overdue lecture on table manners. Maizy rewarded him with a slobbery kiss that smelled like fresh-cut grass and molasses. Life is good. And full of Jersey kisses.
6) NQJC: I am always watching to see what is next from you. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge you have on so many different things. What is next? More books?
MJB: Yes! My daughter and I just finished a children’s book. She called a few minutes ago with a couple of last minute changes. “Moo-n Over Main Street Metropolis” will be out next year. After that, “Bread the MaryJane Way.” After that, “How to Run a FarmStay B&B.” After that, more cows, more milk, more adorable calves. My long-term goal is to see backyard milk cows dotting the landscape again. Don’t you need a moo too?
7) NQJC: I was so thrilled to get my copy of Milk Cow Kitchen. My granny whom I called Mama Tom (my grandpa’s name was Tom so – makes sense right?) always had a milk cow. I have drank many a glass of milk right out of the cow. This book brought back such warm memories for me. Fig preserves on a piece of “light” bread with a glass of fresh milk…ahhhh sweet memories. MaryJane, as I have said, to me you are an endless source of ideas and ideals but what specifically brought you to this book?
MJB: Why, my last name of course!
NQJC: This book truly has something for everyone – real “cow”girls or those who dream of it. For some of us, actually owning a milk cow and becoming a “cow” girl is not a reality at the moment and for some sadly, might never be. The recipes are just amazing! You really need your own show on the food network! I know you do have videos up on your website but would you entertain the idea of moving what you share to TV?
MJB: Probably not. I don’t even have time to watch TV let alone BE on TV. It’s not my medium. Besides, I’m “booked.”
9) NQJC: I have heard and read you compared to Martha Stewart but to me you are more of a Tasha Tudor type woman. Martha built and empire, Tasha built a life. Who are women you looked up to when starting what is now an amazing resource for women in all walks of life?
MJB: Too many to list. Women like my unassuming bank teller who moonlights in a blues band. Women like my grandmother who was an outspoken suffragist. Women like Susan Dahlem who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, a true humanist. Women like Carol Hill, my magazine editor, who I’ve had the privilege of working with five days/week for close to 15 years. Women, period inspire me. How about the member of our Sisterhood last week who earned a merit badge for learning to drive her husband’s front end loader? And then to earn the expert level of her automechanics badge, she figured out how to change the oil in it.
10) NQJC: Now that you are so very well known (and loved) do you ever say “What have I gotten myself into?” Do you long for your privacy?
MJB: I’ve struck a balance. I’m okay with … (and loved). But I’ve learned to ask for what I need when it comes to my alone time. I know this will seem highly unbelievable but a week alone in NYC is awesome for me. Or three days on the Selway River. Or a weekend alone in my Airstream camped next to a bubbling brook. Alone isn’t lonely for me. It recharges my well. The result? Bring it on!
Thank you so much for your time. You are too kind and ONE OF A KIND! And a special thanks to Meg (MaryJane’s daughter) for your help in making this possible
Over the next week I will be sharing recipes I have made out of Milk Cow Kitchen. It has been a thrill to do this Q&A and I know everyone who reads it will enjoy.
Now everyone here is how to enter to win an autographed copy of Milk Cow Kitchen:
Super simple! Leave a comment at the end of this Q &A and the other posts that will follow this week (recipes! YAY!!) and consider yourself entered for each comment. So the more you have to say, the more chances you have to win! This book is beautiful! You will love it! And chock-full of not only information but wonderful recipes for you to try. At the end of this week a winner will be randomly chosen to receive a signed copy of Milk Cow Kitchen! Woot!
You can find out more about MaryJane Butters by visiting: