Monday, March 14, 2011

Thistle Farms/ Magdalene : “Love Heals”


Basic Information
Nashville, Tennessee
Thistle Farm: non-profit business
Product they sell: natural bath and body care products
Magdalene founded in 1997
Thistle Farms began in 2001
Becca Stevens- Founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Contact Info:
Education & Training (for individuals wanting to learn more about the program):
Please contact Marlei, ( Director of PR and Development, to set up a visit or to interview our women and/or founder Becca Stevens.
615.298.1140 (P)

Thistle Farms Overview: Thistle Farms is a social enterprise (non-profit business) run by women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution, and addiction. By hand, the women of Thistle Farms make natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. All proceeds go back into Thistle Farms and the residential program, Magdalene. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities. We stand as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.

Employment and Skills:
Thistle Farms employs 31 Magdalene residents or graduates. Women learn skills in manufacturing, packaging, marketing and sales and administration. It is a supportive workplace where women acquire the skills they need to earn a living wage.

Employees have the opportunity to put a percentage of their earnings in a matched savings account

Product description
1,000 square feet sales and manufacturing facility (new)
Products include: Body Balm, Candles, Geranium Spray, Hand Soap, Lip Balm, Room Spray

Thistle Farms products are available in over 140 stores nationwide
Last year, they sold products at over 200 events including women's health fairs, church retreats, civic club meetings, annual professional conferences and trade convention
Home parties
“have a Thistle farm wedding”- party favors, invitation postcards, etc.

Dream: People will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.

Thistle Farming: summer of 2008 they began to farm thistles for use in in handmade thistle paper and boxes.

Magdalene: is the residential program where women with a criminal history of prostitution and addiction live in community for two years.
Six homes- rent is free
No live-in staff: relies on residents to create a supportive, community, maintain recovery, and share household tasks
Services: housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education and job training
Helps approximately 30 women at any given time
Matched savings program = helps prepare for economic independence upon graduation
Outcomes: 72% of the women are clean and sober 2 1/2 years after entering the program
Women who remain in recovery two years post-graduation are eligible for a new home buying program administered by two local congregations and Magdalene.\
Goals: The long-term goals for Magdalene residents are 1) alcohol and drug addiction recovery 2) legal employment at a living wage 3) education and training to enhance employment opportunities 4) safe, permanent housing 5) improved physical, emotional, and spiritual health; and 6) family reunification and improved social functioning.

There is a waiting list of over 80 women.
AfterFour months women find work, return to school and/or enter Magdalene’s job training program at Thistle Farms

Demographics of women at Magdalene:
Age range: 20-50
70% are clean and sober 2 1/2 years after beginning the program.
Have been sexually abused as a child, drug users, spent years street prostituting and have been arrested numerous times.

No government funding
Individual’s gifts, private grants and the sale of Thistle Farms products
            The Order of the Daughters of the King
The John School has generated over $500,000.00 of funding for Magdalene/Thistle Farms

Visiting Opportunities: Join in any Wednesday morning at Thistle Farms to be a part of the morning meditation beginning at 9:00am with an A.A. style-meditation and feel free to stay and volunteer.

Due to increasing requests to share the model of Magdalene and Thistle Farms with individuals and organizations interested in the work, there is a quarterly immersion day developing to respond to this need. The general schedule involves spending the morning at Thistle Farms. There you will join the meditation circle, observe the manufacturing process and then meet and learn more about the enterprise from women in the program and staff. In the afternoon, we will take you to the primary residence, the Lena House, where the program team works. While at Lena, you will be able to learn more about the recovery process for the women. Please contact Deb to find out about upcoming workshops.

information taken from

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