Combining a pioneer spirit with a deep love for pretty, timeworn treasures and a passion for the outdoors, MaryJane Butters embodies the ultimate dream of running away to live off the land.
Text by Brittany Williams
Photography by Kate Sears
The stark palette of intense blue sky and fields of golden wheat as far as the eye can see inspires silence and contemplation—two pastimes known well to MaryJane Butters. Trained as a backcountry ranger, she spent eight years in the wilds of the West. Working alone in the woods left plenty of time for imagining. In 1986, MaryJane transformed those daydreams into the reality of a small farm in northwestern Idaho.
A single mother with two young children, she had a strong desire to live off the land. This determination, coupled with an inherent can-do entrepreneurial spirit, quickly led to the development of a modest farm-based business: an organic backpacking food line. The simplicity and goodness of the baking mixes, as well as the sparkling spirit of the woman behind them, soon propelled MaryJane from farmer to CEO.
Through her tireless energy and talents, she has established a small empire at the end of a dirt road—a million-dollar business aptly named MaryJanesFarm tucked amid amber waves of grain. At the core, MaryJane is the proud owner of a sweet organic farm employing her husband, son, daughter, and son-in-law, but her reach extends far beyond her immediate family. Remaining true to her ideals, she continues to hire local workers and has built a facility that blends seamlessly into the surrounding rural landscape, while quietly housing the entire operation behind walls of shining corrugated steel.
MaryJane’s original black-and-white food catalog has slowly evolved into a glossy photo-filled magazine and a series of how-to books. “The role of author was never on my life agenda,” she says. “But the opportunity to sell a new root crop—the stories of rural rootedness—came my way, and I put aside my hoe and started tapping my fingers on a keyboard.”