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‘Calling all Farmgirls’
Members of new club seek simpler lifestyle
Mary Ann Witcher, founder of the Georgia Farmgirls, works on a knitting project. - photo by Autumn McBride

At a glance

• What: Georgia Farmgirls fall /winter flea market

• When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through year’s end, except for holiday weekends

• Where: Henhouse, 7645 Bannister Road at Hwy. 9

• Online:

The flyer read: “Calling all Farmgirls.”

It didn’t take long until there were enough to fill a henhouse.

Now the Farmgirls are clucking away in their club, all while quilting, canning, crocheting, crafting and learning about different ways to enjoy a more simple and natural lifestyle.

Forsyth County resident Mary Ann Witcher, often known in writing as “MAW,” started the Georgia Farmgirls in June 2009 as a local chapter of the international MaryJane Farmgirls.

While Witcher did grow up on a farm, she said it doesn’t take an agrarian past to be a Farmgirl.

“All of us want to have a simpler lifestyle,” Witcher said while knitting on a recent afternoon. “That’s our common thread.”

The local group, according to its mission statement, “embodies the goals of empowering, promoting and educating women of all ages in vintage methods of homemaking, gardening and achieving an eco-friendly and self-sustaining lifestyle.”

The global organization began with an organic lifestyle magazine by the original Farmgirl, MaryJane Butters, and has since grown into an international sisterhood with 773 chapters worldwide.

After years of reading the magazine and becoming Sister 600 in the Farmgirls (of 2,071 now), Witcher decided it was time to see if there were any other local women looking for such a group.

“I had no earthly idea what it would turn into,” Witcher said. “It just took off instantly.”

Four months later, the group had enough members to get their own clubhouse at Bannister Road and Hwy. 9.

Witcher named it The Henhouse, after Farmgirls’ online forums, and the group painted it with warm colors. It is also filled with homemade crafts.

The club, which has more than 40 members, meets monthly, takes field trips and visits classes on various topics.

And each weekend, it holds a flea market featuring members’ crafts and organic goods.

Many Farmgirls work on crafts at home, but the Thursday night craft party is a popular one for them to work on projects or learn new ones in classes.

Whether it’s quilting or baking sourdough bread, Witcher said the female friendships are often the best part for members.

“We get this place cackling pretty good on Thursday nights,” she said.

Crafts and laughter aside, the group’s main mission is preserving and spreading farm-rooted talents, especially to younger generations.

That’s how Christy Freeman found the club in February.

Raised as a farmgirl in the traditional sense, Freeman wanted to ensure her daughters, ages 4 and 6, had a chance to include the old-time ways in their own lives.

“It was great to find a group of women who were armed with that knowledge,” Freeman said. “It fit what I needed as a mom.”

Many of the club’s members have grown children or grandchildren, but Freeman said there’s been recent surge of mothers with young children.

She’s working with Witcher to start a Young Cultivators’ Group for kids 16 and younger to learn from the wisdom of the Farmgirls.

“In today’s culture ... there’s a lot of people who are like, ‘I want to go back to the simple way of life,’” Freeman said.

Farmgirl Cynthia Willard said her idea of camping is going to a hotel, but she’s down home on the farm.

The quilting diva, as she’s sometimes known, joined the club for developing friendships and knowledge.

“If you have chickens for fresh eggs or think you might like to have fresh eggs, if you like wearing jeans, if you like fresh air — you might be a Farmgirl and just not know it yet,” Willard said.