MaryJane Butters is America’s new Martha Stewart. A softly spoken, pigtailed “farmgirl,” she runs a smallholding in Idaho that produces a line of organic instant foods under the name MaryJanesFarm. She recently started week-long Pay Dirt Farm School stays, where guests learn the secrets of organic farming and cooking, and sleep in tents furnished with brass beds and patchwork quilts. The teaching programme is as relaxed as the lifestyle it promotes: “If people want to know everything there is to know about chickens, I teach them that,” says Butters.
Despite her refusal to appear on TV, Butters has become a well-known figure in the USA and is now a spokesperson on rural issues. “Rural rootedness is the crop I'm selling,” she says. Her five-acre farm supplies 300 shops, as well as mail-order customers. Soldiers serving in Iraq send for her Southwestern Couscous and Organic Peanut Butter Blonde Brownies. Last year, an agent who had discovered the MaryJanesFarm magazine approached her to write a book. A $1.35 million deal with Random House followed, and MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook (Clarkson Potter, $35) is about to be published. Butters contemplates further renown with some trepidation: “I didn't do this to be famous,” she says. “I'm a very reclusive person ─ I've lived at the end of a dirt road for 20 years. I like my campfire and I like quiet.”