Thistle Farm gives security, jobs to survivors

Becca Stevens, founder and president of Thistle Farms, gave a talk on Oct. 2 about her movement to empower women and how interested women could start a sister program to support women in their area.

Thistle Farms is a social justice enterprise that seeks to help women survivors of abuse and addiction by employing them and giving them a place to live. It works by implementing a two-year program wherein the survivors are housed with other survivors and create a community for healing, while also enabling the survivors to earn a living. Members of Thistle Farms support the business by making body and home products for the enterprise. This model to help survivors has been successful both financially and by helping numerous women recover.

“When we started we decided to make something we can actually sell, that has a margin, so what you do is really important too,” Stevens said. “It’s good to start with body balm and candles; long shelf life good margins.”

Soon after Stevens started Thistle Farms, she found great commercial success.

“In one year, we have sold a million dollars worth of products in the retail store,” Stevens said.

Because their model was so successful, Stevens encourages others to start their own social justice enterprises based on this model.

“I feel that if you are building a movement, you need a rallying cry, something for people to buy into,” Stevens said.

For Thistle Farms, their rallying cry is to help women by giving them a job, shelter and place to recover. While recovering, the survivors are able to add something to their resumes that makes it easier for them to become employed after their two-year stay at Thistle Farms, or to work full time at Thistle Farms. Stevens emphasized the importance of her movement as well as other similar movements. She explained the reasons women are put into vulnerable positions and how they can be lifted out.

“It happens because of a lot of broken communities and a lot of broken systems and the vulnerability of kids, and people prey on that,” Stevens said.

The women who come to Thistle Farms have often been bouncing between an abusive household and the prison system for years by the time they seek help. Sometimes they haven’t had a safe bed for years and Thistle Farms gives them a place to heal.

“Isn’t it beautiful that you have a community like that, where it’s really about recovering