Thistle Farms is a community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Started in 1997 by Rev. Becca Stevens under the name Magdalene, it began with one home for four survivors. Today it includes a residential program which provides referral and advocacy services for up to 700 women yearly, as well as manages a two-year residential program for 36 women in five homes. The social enterprise, started in 2001, now employs 45-50 survivors. The program provides education and training annually through speaking events and immersion workshops. Thistle Farms believes that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world.
The social enterprise was originally started to provide vocational training to residents who often struggled to find employment due to felonies and lack of work experience. It has now grown to become an opportunity for long-term work and careers for survivors. Thistle Farms includes a bath and body care line with products in over 450 stores, a cafe, a paper and sewing studio, and global marketplace called Shared Trade. Women become specialists in manufacturing, shipping, administration and sales. Over half of the leadership team are residents and graduates of the program. Last year social enterprise revenue topped $1,000,000 and Thistle Farms is aiming for $2,000,000 in revenue by next year. The company is committed to growing to offer independence and healing to more women.
In Thistle Farms’ social enterprise model, its workforce is the mission. Providing income and a safe place to heal to women who carry the battle scars of violence and abuse is a profound way to impact society. Last year over $700,000 was paid in income to survivors, and Thistle Farms contributed over $740,000 back to the Nashville community in incarceration and arrest savings. Thistle Farms believes that freedom and healing for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, addiction and homelessness requires economic freedom.