Friday, October 28, 2011

MEET A RETAILER: Charlie Thigpen's Garden Gallery

Charlie Thigpen refers to his Garden Gallery as more than a garden shop or gallery—“it is the brick and mortar incarnation of a longtime dream.” With over 20 years of experience, Charlie has elevated his skills in landscaping and plant design to what can only be referred to as haute art, and thanks to a shot in the arm from his wife Cindy, he now uses his store to help bring “the little miracles” of the natural world to his customers, as well as readers of Southern Living magazine!

Drawn to the story behind the products and our of use of all-natural ingredients, the Garden Gallery now includes Thistle Farms’ own brand of little miracles in its inventory. In celebration of this new partnership, Charlie has invited us to join him at the Pepper Place Farmers Market in Birmingham on Saturday, October 29th.

Chelle and Monique are on their way there now, so if you are in the area, please stop by and say hello to them and Charlie!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Reflections From The White House

Credit:  Elizabeth Bewley / Tennessean Washington Bureau

As we mentioned before, the founder of Magdalene / Thistle Farms
- Becca Stevens
was honored by The White House as "Champions of Change.”  
The Tennessean interviewed Becca after her visit to the White House
and she had this to say:
“I’m saying the same thing over and over my whole life, 
but to say it in that space feels really special.
I’m grateful that I get to speak my words, 
in that space, 
for the people I represent.”

Below is the official White House video of the event
(Becca's speech is on at 0:56:10)
and you can read a transcript of Becca's speech HERE.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Totem

Becca Stevens gave this powerful talk on the night of the 2011 Magdalene Fall Fundraiser, Totems & Sacred Spaces.  You can reflect again on the meaning of the totem and join in Becca's vision that began nearly 15 years ago.

NPR did a four part series on Thistle Farms and Magdalene this year. It was an intense time, especially when they requested an interview with a woman who had relapsed. Tara agreed, even though she was struggling. The week before the story aired, Tara was arrested and all of us were scared and grieving. We had never been through anything like this. Jacki Lyden, the correspondent, said that they either had to pull the story or disclose what had happened. I told her that while our community believed in love without judgment, the people listening to NPR would probably judge us harshly. I told her that we had been through hard relapses, through women killed and beaten so badly it took days to identify the body, but in our 15 years and 150 graduates, we had never been on the other end, where a woman who had relapsed was arrested for homicide. What if a million people heard it and just gave up on the dream that love heals?

I listened to the broadcast by myself while I was in Connecticut at Trinity College for a speaking engagement. I walked around the campus listening with my iPhone clutched in my sweaty palms and prayed. NPR told our whole story, including the devastating news about Tara. What we came to understand was that a million people cried with us at the horrific reality of the violence of the streets and the courage of the women of Magdalene to live differently. The response was a real witness to the truth that when love heals, it washes over all of us.

In a long letter to me Tara wrote that she can look out through a sliver in a razor-wire fence and glimpse a thistle and remember that her story is not over yet. Thistle Farms has been a whirlwind since the airing with the women speaking their truth in love about why women walk the streets and what it takes to bring them home to over 10,000 people at conferences and events. We have never wavered on our mission to be a witness to the truth that love is the most powerful force for social change in the world.

The Hawk totem came to me at the same time we began the journey of opening Magdalene fifteen years ago. The hawk came swooping in and has been there every step of the way. It is been a sign to me that we need to be as fierce in love and as focused as the hawk in our vision. The Hawk soars to the heavens on a breeze and reminds us that the mission of Magdalene and Thistle Farms is not just a statement about the past but a vision that propels us forward with power. That vision is honed by a trusted board, a tireless staff, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. That hawk vision is centered on individual women moving from lives tormented by traumatic, abusive childhoods and violence to life on the streets and in jails, into a life that can soar on a breeze and imagine a future.

On a visit to a prison this year to tell our story, we walked by a woman behind glass in solitary confinement. Her cheeks were etched like a ravine in a valley carved by a river of tears. There was a mural across from her in the hallway was a hawk flying over a valley. I swear love can make the connection between a valley of tears and a free bird soaring over mountains. The healing is slow and mysterious, and it takes all of us to make it happen. Our vision looks into new fields here and afar.

That vision includes opening a Thistle Stop Café at our manufacturing facility led by Desmond and Roberto. The cafe would welcome the public to Thistle Farms, provide another training ground for the women of Magdalene, and would serve the hundreds of individuals that come to us from around the country to learn about our model and about how we make paper.

That vision includes launching sister programs like Eden House, founded three weeks ago in New Orleans after Jennifer, Kenny, Tim, Gwen and I spent the week there. We are working closely with cities like St. Louis, Atlanta, and Dallas that want to learn our best practices and implement them in their own communities.

That vision includes breaking the million dollar annual sales figure in the next two years and moving into 25 Whole Food stores as well as over 200 other retail outlets. Those figures will help us to be a force for changing a culture that still buys and sells women and holds other worn out notions.

That vision includes welcoming another 12 residents this year, opening a new house and helping the authorities of the women’s prison to imagine developing a Magdalene sanctuary inside prison walls.

That vision includes a new still at Thistle Farms dedicated to Joanne Cato by her family. That still will help us be the only local producer of healing essential oils on a commercial scale, and it will save lives by giving new women jobs, by the healing oils it will produce, and by the story it will spread to others.

That vision includes partnering with 3 other women’s enterprises in Lwala, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; and Kigali, Rwanda to introduce a new evening survival kit as we move into fairer trade and lift our communities together. We are having our pre-launch of these kits tonight. We are offering them to you first, the people who have changed the course of Magdalene and Thistle Farms forever by your presence and grace at this gathering.

Tonight there are eight hundred of us here, but there are more than a hundred women whose paperwork is sitting on Donna’s desk; women on the streets or in jails wishing on the full moon that they could find a home with us. Tonight, we could raise enough money in this one hour to keep the doors of our six homes open another year, to invite another 12 interns to be a part of this journey, to work with another 100 women who need help navigating the legal and mental health systems, to speak with another 200 groups about providing sanctuary for women’s bodies and spirits, to invite another 10 residents into Thistle Farms for vital training, and to go across our nation and the world to share the miracle and to inspire other cities to open their own communities.

Magdalene and Thistle Farms are a gift to the city; they cost nothing and save millions. Magdalene and Thistle Farms are a gift to all of us who donate our time, to buy into the hope that love is the most powerful force for change. Magdalene and Thistle Farms are a gift to all the women here tonight who are graduates and residents who found a chance at life.

This evening could be a totem; a sign to cities and social enterprises around the world that it can happen -- we can love the whole world one person at a time; we can change the course of one of the oldest forms of abuse this world has known; we can raise $350,000 in gifts and pledges in an evening and make this vision a reality. It can happen and it can happen with so much grace that all of us will walk out into the world filled with gratitude that it all had meaning and looking towards the sky for the new signs of Love’s healing power.

- Becca Stevens

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

United We Love

Introducing the Evening Survival Kit: A Collaboration Supporting Four Women's Enterprises Worldwide

Take part in the work of Thistle Farms in Nashville, Lwala in Kenya, Ikirezi in Rwanda, and ABAN in Ghana. This eclectic, yet timeless kit, includes:
  • Geranium Fields Scented Oil - a light, floral scent crafted by the women at Thistle Farms, using Ikirezi's geranium oil from the lush fields of Rwanda.
  • Two handcrafted, beaded bracelets made by the women of ABAN in Ghana.
  • Lip Smoothie - a pomegranate treat from Thistle Farms for shimmery, soft lips.
  • A beautiful print clutch sewn by the women of Lwala in Kenya. 
You are invited to celebrate the launch of this kit at a special event!

Please join us at a launch party for the Evening Survival Kit on 

Thursday, November 17 
5:30pm to 7:30pm 
The Pinnacle Building 
Offices of Bass, Berry & Sims
Nashville 37201

Light hor d'oeuvres, wine and tea will be served, and free parking will be offered underneath the building through the 3rd Avenue entrance. Please send RSVPs and questions to

The Evening Survival Kit will help you stay fabulous and fresh for any occasion--love is the best accessory! 

Our Partners:

We are thankful for the following 3 women's enterprises who are making a difference in the lives of women in their communities:

LWALA COMMUNITY ALLIANCE is a community initiative in Kenya focused on health, education, and economic sustainability. The Women's Sewing Project is a microenterprise with women tailors to improve the health status of women in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.

IKIREZI, whose name means “precious pearl” in the local dialect, is a community-interest business that partners with small cooperatives of farmers, primarily widows and orphans of the genocide, in Rwanda ...... in Rwanda to produce high quality geranium oil. Ikirezi primarily works with widows and orphans in a holistic effort to restore their dignity, improve their livelihoods, and rebuild their communities.

ABAN's name comes from the West African Adinkra symbol "Aban," representing a fence, or something that is safe and sound. Their mission is to transform an environmental epidemic into hope by empowering young impoverished women in Ghana and providing them with the tools necessary to practice a trade, make a living, and become self-reliant leaders of their community.

THISTLE FARMS is the social enterprise that is run by the women of Magdalene, a two-year recovery program for women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction that was founded by Becca Stevens. 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 who made them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Champion of Change

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the White House’s Office of Public Engagement has selected Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, as one of 15 “Champions of Change” to be highlighted at a White House event this coming week.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. From fighting AIDS, to suicide prevention, the initiative highlights Americans who are influencing others, who have taken leadership in driving societal shifts and are making an impact in their communities and beyond. The Champions of Change event recognizing Becca and 14 other individuals working to end domestic violence will be held on Thursday, October 20th, 2011 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington D.C.

Becca had this to say about the honor: “I believe this recognition is in honor of Magdalene’s witness for the past 15 years to the truth that love is the most powerful force for change in the world. I want to help change this culture that still buys and sells women and holds on to the worn-out notion that prostitution is a victimless crime. All of us at Magdalene stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from violence, prostitution and addiction and life on the streets.”

Please see local coverage on the award at the following locations:
News Channel 5
The Tennessean
Nashville Scene
Nashville Public Radio

Monday, October 17, 2011

Totems & Sacred Spaces

Last week the community of Magdalene & Thistle Farms celebrated Totems and Sacred Spaces. Chaired by Jay Joyner and Miranda Whitcomb Pontes, the event gathered over 800 people as we honored the totems and sacred spaces of our community. Together, we recognized the dedicated volunteer work of Carole Hagan who serves as our event coordinator, witnessed the powerful testimonies of Magdalene residents, and were moved by the musical performances by John Prine and Ashely Cleveland. In our gathering of old and new friends alike we created our very own communal totem as we raised $280,000 in gifts and pledges to provide sanctuary, treatment, education and work for women coming off the streets. We are thankful to all those who helped make the night a huge blessing.

The night also included a sneak peak of Thistle Farms' Evening Survival Kit-- our newest survival kit that supports four women's enterprises worldwide. We will be launching this exclusive kit in November. Be on the lookout for more details.

Here are a few photographs from the magical night.  To view all of them, see our photo albums on Facebook here and here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Still Dedication

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…
You shall make of these a holy anointing oil…
You shall consecrate them, 
that they may be holy; 
whatever touches them shall be holy.”
Exodus 30: 22, 25, 29

Thistle Farms and Magdalene owe a debt of gratitude to Joanne Cato, her family, and her friends!  On October 10, 2011, a still that will be used to make our very own essential oils was dedicated by Tom Cato, Cathie Cato Renken, Hal Cato, Susanne and Todd Cato, Fred Grgich, and Bobby McAlpine, on the occasion of Joanne's birthday.

We consecrated the still with a beautiful ceremony filled with overflowing joy, happy tears, and excitement. This great act of love and generosity will allow Thistle Farms to be a commercial producer of essential oils, and develop new healing products. As the sweet smell of lavender fills the work space, we are reminded again that our cup runneth over!

By Jordan Walker

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Parking Information For Tonight's Fundraiser

If you are coming to tonight's fundraiser, we have a full house! Try to carpool or arrive early by 5:45 to relieve traffic. Here are parking options:

  • Parking is available starting at 5:30 at the 25th Avenue Highland Garage (from 25th, pass Memorial Gym on right; turn left onto Highland; enter garage only on Highland).
  • Overflow parking is in the West Garage on the corner of 25th and Children's Way (near Blair School of Music). Street parking is also available on West End and is free beginning at 6:00. Paid parking is available at 2525 Garage on Kensington.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Friends In Atlanta

Cynthia, Jordan, Tim and Becca just got back from Atlanta where they spent the day with Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. One our of new friends blogged about their time together. To read her post, please click here.