Thursday, June 18, 2015

Family Ties

Thistle Farms' new Rose Geranium Insect Repellent does more than just ward off mosquitos and bugs. The product unites the Thistle Farmers of Nashville and the Ikirezi Farmers of Rwanda under a common goal: Transforming the lives of women all around the world. The women of Ikirezi harvest essential Geranium oil, and the women of Magdalene combine it with other ingredients to create the finished product. This partnership was the product of Rev. Becca Stevens’ Shared Trade initiative to promote economic freedom for women worldwide.

This summer, Thistle Farms has taken the cross-continental partnership to a new level in welcoming Joseph Mugisha as a volunteer. Joseph’s father, Nicholas Hitimana, founded Ikarezi as a way to encourage recovery among women affected by the devastating Rwandan genocide. Joseph says, “The women at Ikirezi have lost husbands and struggle to provide for themselves. In a sense, this is similar to the women of Magdalene.” Joseph is spending several weeks in Nashville, working alongside the women of Magdalene to produce the Rose Geranium Insect Repellent with the oil from his father’s cooperative.
Having spent time with women from both organizations, Joseph has realized that there is a universal story that the women share.  “There’s a sense of familiarity for me despite the language and cultural differences between the women here and the women in Rwanda. They both have faced great hardships, but they both have a really immense love for each other and the people around them. In that sense I think that Love is something that is cross cultural.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Congratulations Class of 2015!

On Friday, May 29th, in St. Bartholomew’s chapel, nine women graduated from Thistle Farms’ two-year Residential Program. Together, these women share eighteen years of healing in community and over 18 years clean and free from addiction.

Their accomplishments were celebrated while dancing down the church’s aisle and commemorated in reflections for each graduate by Donna Grayer, Director of the Residential Program. One of the many highlights of the ceremony was Katrina Robertson’s words for the graduates. Facing each graduate and speaking from her own experience, Katrina gave the following address:

This has been a long time coming. You did it. You finished a two-year program with rules. When I graduated, other people had their own reasons they were happy for me, but all I could think about is how,

for the first time in my life, I finally finished something.

Ms. Donna used to always remind us we were in a two-year program with rules. I thought she was doing that just to have control over us, and it worked. But what she was really telling us was that if we could complete this program, then maybe, just maybe, we would be ready for the big world that has a lot of rules to follow. If you make good choices and decision in this world, then there will be good consequences and outcomes; and if you make bad choices and decisions, you will get bad consequences and outcomes back.

Hold out your hands. Now that you have finished the program and are moving into your own places and your own homes, your destinies are not in Ms. Donna’s hands, not in Regina’s hands, and not in Holli’s hands.

Your destinies are in your own hands.

So set goals, dream big, and if you fall, get back up. I am so proud of you, and you have a whole community of people that are proud of you and will be with you no matter what adversity you face.

Last Friday was an illustration that not all accomplishments are created equal, and some battles are harder fought than the rest. These nine women, with outstretched arms, represent years of commitment, sacrifice, hope, healing, and the unconditional support of a community. Thank you to all of you who have and who will continue to stand in the Circle with the community of Thistle Farms, and a very special thanks to the Women of St. Bartholomew's who lavished the graduates and all of Thistle Farms with hospitality and love!

Love Heals.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our Sons

Credit: Taro Yamasaki, Courtesy of the Flerlage Foundation

For the past twenty years, several of us have raised our sons while working alongside survivors of trafficking, genocide, and addiction. This summer, our sons have all come to work at Thistle Farms, the community we helped build. Thistle Farms is one of the largest social enterprises run by women survivors in the United States. We are so proud that our sons are a part of this movement for women’s freedom. This work reinforces a quality of masculinity that empowers them to stand up against pressures in the world which tell them to give in, turn the other way, and stay focused on their own pursuits, even as many young women suffer violence at the hands of abusive men and communities.

Their presence reminds communities globally that sexual violence is not just a women’s issue. It is a human rights issue and we need our sons to stand with young women as the next generation works to heal the whole community. Our sons understand the struggles of growing up on social media and witnessing the privacy of others exploited with a single click. They grew up in in schools that prepare for mass shootings. They understand things differently than we do, and we need them to help lead us now that they are in college and entering the workforce.

As a mother, I long to help young men step into life with eyes for advocacy and justice and to learn to see love as the most powerful force for change. I want our sons to speak up for their sisters and others who are exploited. I want our sons to know that their voice matters because silence is a form of complacency. I want our sons to experience the labor and tears of women who have survived brutality as they work alongside them. I want our sons to learn to use their privilege as a means of liberation for others no matter how small. I want our sons to know that their daughters need them now, before they are even born —  working towards a world that protects innocence, holds traffickers accountable, and tells on abusers. As a mother, it is sometimes hard to let go. But I promise that it is much easier to follow as they take the lead on some of this work. It’s joyful to watch them laugh and learn while working on heartbreaking truths.

Our sons are beautiful and powerful. They are becoming more convinced that love requires them to advocate, take action, and stand up for those exploited. We pray for them. We pray that an initiation into a life of leadership, deep caring, and honesty, not self-gratification at the expense of others.

My son and your sons have so much work ahead to help us heal this world and grow rich fields of love.   
-- Becca Stevens
   Founder, Thistle Farms​

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sharing the Light of Isabel Allende

The Rev. Frannie Kieschnick has been a dear friend to Thistle Farms. We asked her to write the dedication of the new Share the Light Campaign to author, activist -- and Thistle Farmer -- Isabel Allende.

What a huge gift, as well as an honor and a responsibility, it was for Thistle Farms to be awarded the Isabel Allende Foundation’s annual $80,000 2014 Espiritu Award. Isabel created her foundation with the proceeds from her writing and in the name of her beloved daughter Paula, who passed away at the age of 28.

However, the gift wasn’t only in the form of the generous infusion of financial support just when Thistle Farms was launching it's global initiative, Shared Trade: A Fair Share for Women. It was also the infusion of light which filled and flowed from each of the women invited to Isabel’s home last fall to witness her presenting the award to three Thistle Farms women, Becca, Anika and Shana. 

Sitting in a sacred circle that night, we did what we always do together. We lit a candle for the unknown women who remain in the darkness of despair, addiction, poverty, prostitution, and trafficking.

Then we went around and shared about someone who has been a light for us in our lives, especially in a dark time. We wept and laughed. We fell in love with each other in that circle of sharing our stories without even knowing everyones’ names. We celebrated the presence of Paula’s compassionate spirit and we watched Becca and Isabel, two magnificent, beloved, feisty, radiant women, lean lovingly toward one another sharing the same passion for justice for women, especially the most vulnerable. 

Soon after the evening of that intimate gathering at Isabel’s home, she received the Presidential Medal of Honor. As President Obama presented her with the honor, he said of her that she writes about the big stuff, about families, magic, romance, oppression, violence, redemption, and makes them accessible. Through her foundation, she ensures that women and children facing violence and oppression can gain access to resources to transform their lives, and to thrive, not just survive. Doesn’t this sound like Thistle Farms and Shared Trade?

It was during that gathering at Isabel’s home, sharing in a circle and in a meal, that a flicker of an idea began to burn in the hearts of the Thistle Farmers. That flicker has caught fire and become the Share the Light Campaign.

Through her foundation in honor of Paula she shares the light of hope. Through the Espiritu Award she has shared the light of hope with Thistle Farms. How can we not dedicate our Share the Light Campaign to Isabel Allende? -- Frannie Kieschnick

Watch the video below to meet Isabel and to feel a part of that special evening.

For information about participating in the Thistle Farms Share the Light campaign and help your local community and the women of Thistle Farms, visit here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Healing. More Hope. Moringa Tea.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Move over apple, there’s a new superfood in town and it has such a vast range of health benefits, you might soon forget you ever had a doctor. This superfood is Moringa Oleifera, better known as the “miracle tree” plant native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Credit: Kelsey Cherry

Though much sought-after in those regions, people are just getting to know about the health benefits of Moringa in the western world. Thistle Farms is one of the first to really promote Moringa as a healing tea. Rather than sell the leaves as an herb, Thistle Farms has combined Moringa leaves with Kenyan black tea and lemongrass, producing a delicious and nutritious herbal tea blend.

On top of that, just as Moringa has healing properties for the immune system, Thistle Farms’ collaboration with the “Moringa Madres” of Juan Cosala, Mexico brings healing to women of the two social enterprises. These women of Mexico grow and harvest Moringa tea leaves, and Thistle Farms purchases the leaves so that meaningful work and income can be provided for impoverished women in that region.

So, back to Moringa - why “miracle tree” (or miracle tea)? For starters, the amount of healing properties this plant possesses is miraculous in and of itself. 

Here are several known benefits found in the leaves of a Moringa tree:
-Increases energy

-Balances blood sugar and normalizes blood pressure
-Contains proficient amounts of antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A
-3.5x more Vitamin C than oranges (per 1 cup Moringa tea)
-2x the calcium as milk (per 1 cup Moringa tea)
-2x the Vitamin A than in carrots (per 1 cup Moringa tea)
-Strengthens immune system
-Natural anti-inflammatory
-High in potassium
-Over 46 antioxidants
-Enables better sleep (no caffeine!)

Nature’s healing powers through this plant have not gone unnoticed. Recently Dr. Oz listed moringa as one of "5 Ways to Re-energize Your Day," highlighting its nutrient-density. Soon after, the Los Angeles times wrote:

“Moringa sounds like Magic. It can rebuild weak bones, enrich anemic blood and enable a malnourished mother to nurse her starving baby. Doctors use it to treat diabetes in West Africa and high blood pressure in India...and it's not only good for you, it's delicious."

With Thistle Farms’ Moringa Tea, you can be healed.
For the Moringa Madres, you can be a healer.

The Moringa Tea blend can be purchased at the Thistle Stop Cafe or online at our Thistle Farms website.

Visit our shared trade site to learn more about the Moringa Madres and our other shared trade partners.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Where the Path is Leading Shana & Shelia Today: A Path Appears Update

A Path Appears: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a 3-part documentary from journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that explores gender-based oppression, as well as effective solutions, across the U.S. and abroad. The first segment of the film explores sex trafficking, prostitution and the connections with early abuse, and features the stories of Shana Goodwin and Shelia McClain, both graduates and employees of Thistle Farms & Magdalene. As the documentary was filmed in 2013, we thought viewers would like to know a little about their lives today.

This past weekend, Shana Goodwin moved into a cozy new 2-bedroom home with plenty of space for her kids and the goal of homeownership on the horizon! Reflecting on where she is today Shana says, “I’m just grateful. Every night when I lie down in my bed, I think of those nights of sleeping under a bridge. I never want to forget. My next thought is that there's still a girl under there now. I feel it in my gut – the desire to help the woman who is still out there.”

Shana is a Thistle Farms sales representative and a vital member of our retail team. One of the best ways to help her in her mission to bring more women off the streets, is to recruit new retail stores to carry our line around the country. Have a favorite local bath & body care shop? Tell them about Thistle Farms and encourage them to carry our product. You can reach out to the Thistle Farms sales team and give us your suggestions by CLICKING HERE.

In August, Shelia Simpkins McClain earned her B.S. in Psychology. With the goal of earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling, Shelia is already using her education in her work at Magdalene and as an Intervention Specialist at End Slavery Tennessee. When asked what getting this degree means to her, Shelia said, “I was raised to believe I was dumb and that I wouldn’t achieve anything. This degree means that wasn’t true. I'm already using my degree with our program for inmates, Magdalene on the Inside. My degree helped me redefine my place in the circle as a professional and a graduate. It has shown me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.”

As Magdalene’s Assistant Resident Manager and Coordinator of our prison program, Shelia is a key member of the team. Additionally, she works with juvenile and adult victims of trafficking at End Slavery Tennessee. You can watch a short clip of Shelia speaking to inmates here and learn more about End Slavery Tennessee here. Like Shana, Shelia’s passion is about bringing women off the streets, and giving them a chance at a new life. Shelia and the program team can always use donations of welcome baskets for new residents and gift cards to purchase supplies for residents and inmates. Contact for details or CLICK HERE to learn more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More Happiness In Giving

Written by Thistle Farmer (and Country Music Artist) Sara Evans
originally published on the blog A Real Fine Place

‘Tis the season to be thinking of gifts! So in the truest sense of giving, I decided to collaborate with Thistle Farms this holiday season to provide gifts that keep on giving!
Thistle Farms is a beautiful place (social enterprise) that is run by the women of Magdalene. Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made. It was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens. On a personal note, I have witnessed throughout the years all of the dedication that Becca has given this cause. I met her when I first started writing songs with her husband Marcus Hummon, who is an amazing songwriter! We wrote so many songs together, including Born to Fly, however I think Rocking Horse fits this occasion perfectly.
And it was something magic out of something frightening
That’s how I live my life,
I take it as it comes
And I find the hidden love
They are salt of the earth people and I am happy to share their gifts with you all. Go and give and be Merry!

Holiday Candle
Holiday Bath Salts
Individual Healing Oil
Lip Balm
packaged together in beautiful eco-friendly Love Heals brown bag and ribbon
*note: scents will vary

Thermos & Tea Survival Kit
Thistle Farmer Mug
Becca Stevens’ The Way of Tea & Justice Book
Thistle Star Book Ornament
Gift Certificate to Thistle Stop Cafe *note: must be used at the Thistle Stop Cafe in Nashville, TN
package together in beautifully wrapped basket and ribbon
SPECIAL BONUS: Some of the baskets may even contain a random, hand written, holiday wish from Sara herself!

Merry (early) Christmas, and shop ’til you drop!
A Thistle Farmer