Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest turned thistle farmer, and renowned TEDx Nashville Speaker, is a champion for women who have survived prostitution, addiction, and human trafficking. Sadly, many of these victims were assaulted by the time they were seven years old and by their teen years ended up on the street. They’re refugees, runaways and genocide/human trafficking survivors. Human trafficking is a $4 billion underground industry that revolves around prostitution and addiction.
Most of these survivors have lived in extreme poverty and/or homelessness. Their situations are dire. Many feel trapped, are addicted, subjected to predatory behaviors, and have lost custody of their children. They have extensive police records, have gone to prison, and must pay restitution to the courts. Often they feel so much shame that they can't talk about it. It’s a dark place leaving them lost and bitter.
Stevens believes broken social safety nets allowed these victims to slip through the cracks. She decided to do something about it, setting up Thistle Farms as a way to afford these victims a second chance at life.
The non-profit welcomes survivors to a haven where they can can feel safe and loved by a community. This gives the women an opportunity to be healed from their brokenness through compassion.
Thistle Farms moves their mission forward by selling body & skin care products, gifts and candles made from healing oil. The Nashville, Tennessee company employs the women, who all receive a fair wage for their work. Thus they are empowered to make choices that free them from modern-day slavery. They become economically independent and flourish despite their checkered pasts.
Thistle Farms is Strong Enough to Break Through Economic Barriers
The non-profit also offers the Magdalene Residential Program which houses women for up to 9,000 nights, offers hundreds of hours of therapy, and an opportunity for medical appointments. Women live there rent-free and have the opportunity to recover from the abuses they've suffered. The program was opened in 1997 and also gives women access to dental care, food, clothes, and other resources so they can get back on track.
As Stevens built the Magdalene Residential Program she spent time on the streets and in prisons asking women what a healing space would look and feel like to them. Stevens says it’s imperative that the women feel safe as they recover.
As of 2019, the company has created six homes. The Magdalene Residential House has become a recovery model that has been adopted by additional businesses.
The Thistle is a Symbol of the Company’s Story
The moniker “thistle” isn’t just part of brand name. It’s a symbol that took root.
Drought resistant thistle is a noxious weed with deep roots so strong it can break through concrete. The plant also has natural healing properties to detoxify the liver; plus it balances the body after trauma.
Often overlooked, thistles bloom with purple flowers and thrive in the harshest conditions. Few people want them. This means there are plenty of free resources to create beautiful paper, boxes, crafts, and natural body products. These goods are sold to help fund the Magdalene Residential Program.
Thistle Farms receives no state funds. Leaders publicize the mission in places of worship, collegiate churches, conventions, and civic groups. They also collect donations.
But ultimately, Stevens believes the real value of the company isn’t measured in money, but in gratitude. And that with enough resources, the company’s mission can make this a world of wonder and opportunity for hopeful regeneration.
Where Can You Buy Thistle Farms products?
The Boutique at the Flower & Home Marketplace at 196 Broad Street in Blue Ball, PA sells their high-quality goods.