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Service Magic

by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell

MaryJanesFarm magazine is featured on pages 29-30:



The word "virtual" has come to be associated almost exclusively with the Internet. But there are other ways for the essence of reality to be imbued in unsubstantial form. It is at the heart of literature and animation. One of the most overlooked of virtual places is the humble mail order catalog. A good catalog displays and showcases desirable products. A magical catalog enfolds the reader in a fantasy world woven around the products it displays and sells. Two of the best are Vermont Country Store and MaryJanesFarm. Pick up either catalog and you are drawn into a world of country living, organic farming, and old-fashioned country storekeeping. Indeed, the catalogs themselves are more magazine than catalog

MaryJanesFarm, 57 years younger than the Vermont Country Store and published half a continent way in Moscow, Idaho, enfolds customers/readers in a virtual world of organic farming and New Age old-fashioned values so richly, they can almost smell the straw of the hen house and the backcountry breakfast frittata cooking over an open fire. Founder Mary Jane Butters describes her mail order publication as "one part catalog and two parts magazine." The color photos of her cuisine are coupled with unique articles, interviews and tips, photocopies of reader letters, and nostalgic sepia-tone pictures of kids and cows. On one page is an article on how to make a camp stool, on another, how to stack 39 bales of hay on a regular pickup truck, and on yet another how to get really great customer service. The stories and letters interspersed among the ads elevate the buying process to the part-barter, part-banter ambiance of the 21st century version of the old country store - or a direct-from-the-grower transaction. You only see Mary Jane in the photographs, but a quick leaf through her "magalog" leaves you feeling you have found not just a merchant, but possibly a friend for life and a great source for organic trail food.



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