One of the first things you may notice when walking through the doors of The Café at Thistle Farms is the unique teacup artwork that hangs from the ceiling in the entryway, displaying more than 1,100 different teacups. Hal Cato, CEO of Thistle Farms, shares that the project was designed by the interior team at McAlpine House and executed by Andy Harding, a local Nashville artist, along with the help of several volunteers. The café started collecting teacups more than five years ago, and the collection continued to grow.
“Like all of us, there is a story in every cup,” Hal says.
This community began in 1997 when Becca Stevens, a local Episcopal priest, founded the Magdalene Program, a housing assistance program dedicated to helping female survivors of human trafficking, prostitution and addiction. Four years later, the mission of Thistle Farms was born.
“We had operated the Magdalene homes for four years when we realized that we needed to do something to help the survivors financially as well because they were not getting jobs. So, we started the social enterprise of making products,” Hal says.
When survivors join the two-year residential program, they are provided with employment through Thistle Farms, health insurance, meals, therapy and access to educational groups. Hal says Thistle Farms has had a large social impact on the local community by helping women many people would otherwise ignore.
“Helping survivors love themselves and love others in a healthy way is at the core of what we do,” he says.
In November 2017, The Café at Thistle Farms reopened its doors after nearly a yearlong renovation. Hal says he can see the pride in the survivors' eyes as they welcome customers into the beautiful space to make them healthy food. One of the chefs can even be heard singing to the food as she cooks.
On an outside wall of the café, there is a mural with the organization’s message of “Love heals everybody.” When making their products, the team at Thistle Farms pours love into all they do. Whether it be a candle, body lotion, bath soak, hand soap, essential oils or lip balm, each product is made with the intention to heal the mind, body and soul.
“We are helping to create a culture that gives women the opportunity to heal and helps assure that they never have to sell themselves as a commodity again,” Hal says.