Hire Calling: Farm Fresh

Meet another in our series of innovators who create jobs for women. Click here to vote by August 31, 2012, for the job genius whose work impresses you most. We’ll give the winner $20,000 for her organization.

by the MORE Editors
mary jane butters image
Photograph: Misha Gravenor

Founder of Project F.A.R.M.

Butters is the Martha Stewart of organic farming: She runs an 80-acre Idaho spread, produces a line of packaged organic foods, sells down-home goods and writes about country life. Seven years ago, she launched Project F.A.R.M. (First-class American Rural Made) to market crafts and products created by small-town (or no-town) women.

To provide income for families in depressed agricultural areas and to preserve American crafting traditions. Butters buys goods at prices set by the artisans and sells them online at mary​janesfarm.com and in her two Idaho retail stores. Earning the Project F.A.R.M. label also boosts the items’ sales.

“Project F.A.R.M. came from my heart,” Butters says. “I wanted to employ rural women because I once found myself in their situation—at the end of a dirt road, wondering how to make a living.” Butters struggled for seven years as a single mom on a small farm, until she started experimenting with organic dry-food mixes. After marrying the farmer next door, she began marketing not just food but the romance of rural living.

Wilma Gilbert of KnobLick, Kentucky. At an antiques show in Texas, Butters spotted Miss Wilma and Friends pillows, made from vintage material. “Her husband is struggling as a tobacco farmer, so she started sewing pillows and making a name for herself,” Butters says. When Gilbert explained that she puts cash-strapped local women to work on the pillows, the idea clicked with Butters. She already employed local craftswomen to sew some of the products featured in her bimonthly magazine, Mary Janes Farm, so she expanded the idea into Project F.A.R.M., with Miss Wilma first on the roster.

Among the more than 50 women (and a few men) who’ve benefited from Project F.A.R.M. is Joyce Saunders of Moscow, Idaho, who helps support eight kids on 30 hours of needlework a week. Artisans such as Lena Shandor, who handcrafts her Soy Scents candles in Hurricane, West Virginia, supplement their incomes with $3,000 to $6,000 a year from Project F.A.R.M. sales. The good effects multiply: “We sell baskets from Kaspar Wire Works in Shiner, Texas; they employ 700 people in a one-stoplight town.”

“I’d like people to rethink the way they shop. It’s cool to get a bargain, something manufactured cheaply overseas, but it’s a killer for people who handmake things.”

Click here to vote by August 31, 2012.

Click here to meet another job innovator who helps low-income women start successful bussinesses.

Want the latest beauty, fashion and lifestyle tips? Click here to sign up for our fabulous weekly newsletter!

First Published October 24, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


diana rasmusson11.02.2011

Such a good article about Mary Jane. She's doing some great things for rural American women. Here's a link to Project FARM in case anyone would like to check out the craftspeople listed there http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/ProjectFarm/ My husband and I are Steel My Art. We live on a small farm in Southern Oregon and make Metal Art in our "spare time". Thanks for the help Mary Jane, we appreciate you :)

Post new comment

Click to add a comment