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The Search for Good Travel Food

RV Life, October 2002, page 19

By Bill London

Vic Getz is a picky eater. That's a problem, since Getz, a full-timer who summers as a camp host in the Washington and Idaho mountains and winters in Yuma, can't cook.

"I never learned, and I'm too old to bother," he said, smiling as he relaxed in his fifth-wheel. "But I won't eat what they call fast food. I had some health problems and I decided I just do not have time for cheap food. I want food like I remember from the farm when I was a boy: real stuff, no chemical junk. It was tough getting food that even I could cook up that was good, but then I found Mary Jane. I'm set now."

Getz was looking for easy to prepare foods that stored well and did not take up space in his RV. He demanded totally natural ingredients. And he needed to be able to buy the food wherever he happened to land.

He found the answer on the Internet. Recently, a host of new companies selling prepared foods, in cups and packets, with wholesome ingredients labeled "organic," "natural," or "vegetarian," have appeared on the world wide web, selling their products to anyone who can receive mail or parcel delivery.

After months of sampling, Getz decided that his favorite foods came from a 10-year-old company in Moscow, Idaho, known as MaryJanesFarm and named for the company president, Mary Jane Butters. Mary Jane sells more than 60 different instant foods, from pastas to cookies and salsa to main entrees, through her website, toll-free phone line, and an ad-free, full-color storefront magazine.

"Her 'Travel Cuisine' food is good," Getz said. "Real good flavor. None of that cheap freeze-dried cardboard taste. All of it is organic. And it comes in these serving packets that are just paper I can toss into the campfire. Even better, lots of what she sells you can mix up in the packet, just adding hot water. That way, you don't even dirty a pot. Even I can add boiling water and stir."

Mary Jane Butters did not begin her life wanting to run a food company.

She was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. After graduating from high school in 1971, Mary Jane started working as a secretary, but quit a few months later to pursue a job more appealing to her pioneering spirit: watching for fires from a mountaintop lookout near Weippe, Idaho. Butters continued to select jobs where she was the first of her gender: the only woman on the carpentry crew at Hill Air Force Base, the first woman wilderness ranger hired by the U.S. Forest Service, and in 1976, the first woman station guard at the Moose Creek Ranger Station, the most remote Forest Service district in the continental U.S., in Idaho's Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area.

After two years, she left Moose Creek to find a farm of her own. With her daughter, Megan, born in 1979, and her son, Emil, born in 1983, she bought a five-acre homestead eight miles from Moscow, Idaho.

Responding to the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, she founded and directed a local environmental group. After four years of successful activism, she resigned to try and create build markets for local farmers growing foods without pesticides. She experimented with creating falafel, a mid-eastern staple, but a relatively unknown food in this country at that time. By 1990, she started marketing it locally, and in 1993, incorporated her business. The company has grown regularly ever since.

"You take enough of Mary Jane's food for a week and it doesn't even fill up part of a shelf," Getz summarized. "You add fresh stuff and you have a bunch of good meals. That's perfect for living out in the woods, or for driving by and thumbing your nose at every fast food joint you pass."



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