Honestly, the Café wasn’t what I originally planned to talk about today, but then I saw their Facebook post this morning and they made me really, really hungry. Since I can’t get to the Café for a few weeks to eat there, I decided to just change the order of my podcasts and talk about them.
Thistle Farms Café is located in Nashville, Tennessee, located along West Nashville’s revitalized Charlotte Pike corridor, and is tied into the Thistle Farms complex with their headquarters and social enterprise facilities. Thistle Farms is a nonprofit organization that lives out the idea that “love heals” through all of their projects. The organization was founded by Reverend Becca Stevens twenty years ago and serves to offer a place of hope and healing to women survivors of prostitution, sex trafficking and addiction. Stevens, who was honored in 2017 as a CNN Hero, wanted to offer women a way out.
Thistle Farms now has 5 residential communities in Nashville where women can stay for two years at no cost. The women support each other through the healing process. The organization grew from just being a residential program, however, when Stevens and the residents started making bath and body products. That aspect of the program grew into a $2 million company with more than 75 employees—2/3s of whom are graduates of the residential program. Their products are ow sold in certain retail stores worldwide.
So, you can see that this is truly a life-changing program. It changed Stevens’ life. You can read more about her story on the Thistle Farms website (https://thistlefarms.org) or through the CNN Heroes project from 2017. She has also written several books, with the latest being titled Love Heals. It was released in September 2017 and shares the principles of the organization that have transformed individual lives and really the community as a whole. I was honored to interview Stevens for a Southern Writers Magazine article about this book and I can tell you that she is a truly inspiring person. Her genuine love for the women and the communities she serves is very evident. She lives by the belief that love does heal.
So, you have the residential program and the manufacturing and products aspect of Thistle Farms, but Stevens and her fantastic team didn’t stop dreaming there. They wanted a place to invite the community into and spread their love and share their principles of healing. In a StyleBluePrint article by Kay West titled “The Café at Thistle Farms: Renewed, Repaired & Ready to Serve,” West quotes Stevens as saying that she first had a simple plan of just a tea shop next to their shop, but it turned into a completely different thing.
And this different thing is what made me so hungry today. I did a quick morning check of my social media sites and there it was: the picture of the black bean quinoa veggie burger with roasted carrot aioli, pickled onions, lettuce and tomato on a house-made butternut squash bun. That’s all I could think about today. It’s on my list now to make another trip to the Café as soon as I can, and I hope it’s on a day when I can eat something on a homemade butternut squash bun.
On my first visit to the Café earlier this year, my teen and I each devoured one of their herbed chicken salad sandwiches on a croissant. They came with a homemade pickle and chips. Even the fruit tea was delicious.
So, you get amazing food here and you are supporting a cause that’s very close to my heart. If you are lucky enough to be there for breakfast, you can choose between menu items such as fresh buttermilk pancakes, a quiche, a yogurt bowl with fruit and local honey, and a breakfast biscuit with local farm eggs, Sweetwater buttermilk cheddar, pesto mayo, and bacon or sausage.
Is your mouth watering yet? Follow the Café at Thistle Farms on Facebook and you’ll be treated to photos like I saw this morning that show their daily specials or some of their more regular menu items such as a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich, a pesto chicken wrap, or their homegrown BLT. Their salads are just as scrumptious as their sandwiches. And let’s definitely don’t forget their house-made pastries and dessert treats. I’m a Southern girl who loves to have a sweet treat after a meal.
For a special treat, make a reservation for one of the afternoon teas served daily between 1 and 3 p.m. You can check their website for current pricing a reservation information.
So, you can see why Thistle Farms and the Café have a special place in my heart. Yes, they have amazing products in their shop and incredible food in the Café, but more than that, they are looking to see the women in the community who needed hope. Stevens and her team take the time to know their names and their stories. And then they love them because it is love that heals the deepest wounds that we too often fail to even see.
The thistle is the symbol for the organization because it represents the truth of so many lives—the thistle is resilient—it grows in the dirt and dust beside the roads that so many women have had to walk to survive. The thistle is strong—tough—and beautiful all at the same time. That’s what Stevens saw in the women she has worked so hard to serve—a strength and a beauty that others failed to recognize.
Café General Manager Courtney Johnson Sobieralski started volunteering at Thistle Farms after graduating MTSU. She eventually oversaw the construction of Café, which had to be renovated after a roof collapse in 2016. When the Café opened in 2013, it started with basically just tea and coffee service with not much else available until the following year when they acquired a little more space and equipment and added soup and a few basic sandwiches.
With the remodel in 2016, they added a full commercial kitchen and an entirely new menu. The Café sources its fresh, produce-driven food and beverage offerings from a variety of Middle Tennessee farmers and makers. The Café is definitely cozy with an inviting atmosphere that gives you a moment to catch your breath. And while you are doing that, stop and remember the love poured into each meal. Love poured in by the founder and the entire team who dreamed up the idea and believed in it enough to make it a reality. Love poured in by the women in recovery who are working to make the café a success and turn their lives around. They start their days with meditation and a time to give thanks.
I’m thankful for this nonprofit organization that offers hope and love to so many people. I think of it every time I wear my love heals hat I got from the shop next door to the café. And I’m definitely thankful that I can plan a road trip soon to get back there and eat another homemade meal that I’m sure will be delicious. Until then, I’ll just have to imagine what it’s like from the Facebook posts.
Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the podcast and will return for the next episode.