Beth Sholom’s annual Tikkun Sholom event featured a relatively new Memphis non-profit, Thistle & Bee, whose mission is to serve victims of human trafficking in Shelby County and beyond. Through their therapeutic clinical program and social enterprise components, Thistle & Bee teaches the survivor staff the art of beekeeping and how to make and manage the products they sell at boutique shops and stores throughout the city.
The program also includes a therapeutic piece. “We work with survivors on everything from case management, to trauma care, to recovery,” says Jordan Boss, executive director of Thistle & Bee. “It’s really the ‘work on self’ piece of what we do.” The organization partners with other groups, such as The Hart Center and Lifecare Family Services, to provide seamless care and treatment for the women they serve.
Thistle & Bee currently has 80 colonies of bees in 12 locations around West Tennessee, and the women have learned to become beekeepers by shadowing professionals. “We harvest the honey and sell it to the community to then invest back into the program,” says Jordan. “We also make and sell a 14-ingredient premium granola product that is sweetened only with honey.”
The program has only been up and running since June 2017, and so far, all the women involved have been local. Thistle & Bee is a sister organization of Thistle Farms, which is a “housing first” model, so Jordan has been looking for a residence that can become a temporary home to the women in their program.
“We didn’t start with the housing piece and now recognize that it’s the most critical piece,” she said. “Stability in housing and making sure their basic needs are met first has to happen in order for them to be able to stop and breathe. Then we can address everything else that’s going on in their lives.” Jordan hopes that they find a residence that is outside of where these women have lived and worked. “That can trigger them,” she said.
All of the bee colonies were harvested early in September, so their inventory will have to last until spring. The organization was founded by Reverend Eyleen Farmer, who recently retired from Calvary Episcopal Church, and was inspired by the work happening at Thistle Farms in Nashville. “We need funding to keep the therapeutic program going and to keep the women in a place where they can have case management and recovery,” Jordan said. “We need funding for all of that, and we also need people to buy our product.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to support an organization that is empowering women and giving them a purpose,” says Rabbi Sarit Horwitz of Beth Sholom Synagogue. “When we begin the Jewish New Year in the fall, it is about rediscovering a sense of our own purpose in life, a sense of striving to be our best selves. Perhaps helping and supporting others do that is part of our search, as well.”
Jordan is currently building a website that will allow customers to buy their products online. “We have a lot of partners, so that’s another way the community can help,” she says. “We really rely on community partners to help provide those services.” In addition to honey and granola, Thistle & Bee also sells tea, lemonade, herbals blends, and seasonings.
When asked what else they need help with, she replied, “Love. It’s really what these women have not experienced in life. They need that more than anything else.”
You can support Thistle & Bee by buying their products in and around town, or by shopping thistleandbee.org. You can also donate at www.thistleandbee.org/donate.
Look for Thistle & Bee products in Memphis at:
Baptist Medical Center Gift Shop in Collierville
Baptist Women’s Hospital
Dixon Gallery and Gardens Gift Shop
St. George’s Bookshoppe
The Mustard Seed
They are also at the Cooper Young Farmers’ Market every other Saturday.