Interview: Thistle Farms

Hey friends! We are so excited for our show next week! It’s not too late to purchase tickets, and you can do that here!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been promoting all of these shows, and that the proceeds benefit Thistle Farms, but we realize that may not mean a whole lot to you if you don’t know who they are/what they do. We had a chance to interview Melanie from Thistle Farms, and she had a lot of solid information that will help you gain a better understanding of who they are & what they do.

Q1: How and when did Thistle Farms begin?

Melanie: In 1997, Rev. Becca Stevens opened Thistle Farms’ first recovery home under the name Magdalene. She invited five women survivors to live there, rent-free, for two years. Her goal was to create a community where women could heal from years of trafficking, addiction, prostitution, and the violence of life on the streets. Soon after the first group entered the Magdalene program it was clear that, though they were making great strides in their recovery, the women still had no way to become economically independent. After this realization, Becca and the residents began making candles in a church basement and, in 2001, Thistle Farms was born. These humble beginnings have grown into a social enterprise with four branches–Home and Body, the Cafe at Thistle Farms, an artisan studio, and Thistle Farms’ Global–that will gross over $2.4 million dollars in sales this fiscal year and employ over 50 survivors.

All of their incredible products can be purchased here!

Q2: Specifically, how does your organization combat sex trafficking?

Melanie: At Thistle Farms, we serve women survivors of addiction, prostitution, trafficking and abuse who are trapped in a cycle of poverty and imprisonment, unable to find healing. We understand that the main drivers of domestic prostitution and trafficking are rooted in severe childhood abuse (most often including sexual abuse), traumatic loss and/or neglect. Poverty, the instability of the foster care system, and the disease of addiction compound the problem endangering women and leading them into patterns of dependence. The majority of residents experienced sexual abuse beginning between ages 7 and 11, began alcohol and drug usage by age 13, have spent time in jail or prison, and on average, have endured one decade of trafficking and prostitution.

Thistle Farms’ housing-first rehabilitative model is a long-term, effective solution that enables survivors to access mental and physical healthcare, reconnect with their families, avoid recidivism, and become contributing members of the community. We combat sex trafficking by working to break the cycles that contribute to it. Broken communities have allowed Thistle Farms’ residents to fall through the cracks; we are working to create healing communities in order to bring them back.

Q3: How did you come to partner with Songs Against Slavery?

Melanie: Our relationship goes back to 2012 when SAS founders Lauren & Gracie were still based out of Kalamazoo Michigan. Artist Steve Moakler performed at one of their first benefit concerts and told the two of them about Thistle Farms. Shortly after that Lauren and Gracie got in touch with us directly and asked if they could put on a benefit show for us in Bowling Green Kentucky in spring 2013 – of course we said yes. We have been blessed ever since by the passion and generosity of Songs Against Slavery.

Q4: Describe a moment when you felt encouraged by Thistle Farm’s initiatives.

Melanie: To be a part of the Thistle Farms community is to consistently feel inspired and encouraged by the extraordinary women accomplishing ordinary things. Each week we gather in meditation circle and hear stories of women receiving their first paycheck, reuniting with their families, celebrating sobriety milestones, feeling love and being able to give love back. Of course we also hear about tough times and struggles along the way, but the fact that survivors have a place to bring their sorrows as well as their successes demonstrates the strength of this community.

One of the most encouraging days of every year is our graduation ceremony. The unadulterated joy that fills the room as women dance down the aisle to celebrate completing the residential program is something I wish everyone could experience. This day brings together the whole Thistle Farms community as well as the families and friends of the graduating class. Here we truly see how our community is healing along with the individual women. We celebrate each woman’s unique journey as well as the incredible ripples of hope that she is creating.

Q5: What is something you wish your local community understood about sex trafficking?

Melanie: Not only does sex trafficking exist in each of our communities, but there is a complex web of root causes that allow it to persist. Childhood abuse, neglect, poverty, trauma, addiction, homelessness, and other factors all contribute to making a person vulnerable to trafficking. In order to combat trafficking, communities must recognize and actively work to eradicate these and other risk factors.

Q6: What is your greatest hope for Thistle Farms?

Melanie: At the heart of Thistle Farms’ work is survivor healing. My hope is that through our national and global initiatives, as well as our local work, we can help to change a culture that allows humans to be bought and sold and every survivor can know the healing power of love.

You guys are incredible, and your support is the reason we are able to partner with incredible organizations like Thistle Farms in the fight to end slavery!

The SAS Team