Human Services

Thistle Farms, Inc.

Love Heals

Updated in partnership with GivingMatters

Nashville, TN


 Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support. 

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Mr. Hal Cato

Main Address

5122 Charlotte Avenue

Nashville, TN 37209 USA

Formerly Known As

Magdalene, Inc.


social-enterprise, addiction, prostitution, homeless, trafficking





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Homeless Services/Centers (P85)

Alcohol, Drug and Substance Abuse, Dependency Prevention and Treatment (F20)

Sheltered Remunerative Employment, Work Activity Center N.E.C. (J33)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Thistle Farms Residential Program - Magdalene

Thistle Farms Body & Home

Thistle Farms Global

The Cafe at Thistle Farms

Thistle National Network

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

1. Residents and graduates must find sustainable, secure employment in order to escape the cycle of prostitution and addiction that once dictated their lives. Thistle Farms' first goal is to hire 30 additional residents and graduates in the next three years as part of Thistle Farms Social Enterprises.

2. In order to sustainably scale its model and service to women, Thistle Farms must continue to increase product sales. Given current demand for products, Thistle Farms intends to expand product sales to 700+ retail stores nationwide, increasing sales revenue to surpass $2 million in sales in the upcoming year.

3. This year, Thistle Farms expects to welcome 700+ individuals and organizations interested in learning from and/or replicating Thistle Farms' best practices. Workshops offered throughout the year by Thistle Farms are capped at 70 participants due to limited meeting space, and often run on a the waiting list. In order to meet the overwhelming and consistent demand from organizations seeking information and support from Thistle Farms, Thistle Farms will create a Global Education Room with the capacity to educate and empower these visitors.

1. Manufacturing: Thistle Farms will build a 5,000 square foot manufacturing facility and warehouse space on property adjacent to its current facility. Over the next three years, building the new manufacturing facility will allow Thistle Farms to employ 30 additional residents and graduates, distribute its products to 700+ stores throughout the country, and grow sales revenue by 75%.

2. Thistle Stop Café: Thistle Farms will remodel the Café, creating a commercial kitchen, increasing event space, and building a retail storefront. The remodel will cost $400,000, or $150/square foot. In 2016, this investment will produce revenue of $225/square foot; projected revenue will increase to $265/square foot by 2018. Thistle Farms expects to increase the Café's sales revenue 50% by expanding its menu, operating hours, retail sales, and event rentals.

3. In order to meet the overwhelming and consistent demand from organizations seeking information and support from Thistle Farms, Thistle Farms will create a Global Education Room with the capacity to welcome these visitors.

Thistle Farms runs under the combined leadership of its Board of Directors, Founder/President, and CEO. Thistle Farms employs approximately 73 individuals, 40+ of whom are residents or graduates of the residential program. We have created a network of 50+ partner organizations who replicate all or parts of our model across the United States. We also have ​20 international partnerships through our Global Marketplace. Thistle Farms relies on local partners to be able to pay 100% of residents' medical and dental treatment, prescription medication, addiction recovery, trauma therapy, case management, and transportation needs. Thistle Farms has a 20 -year track record of donor growth, diversification and retention as well as double -digit growth in earned income. Over the past three years, earned income has grown more than 75% and as of April 2016, earned income is up 28% over this time last year. Our Board of Directors is committed to seeing Thistle Farms becoming a completely self--sustaining entity by Q1 2019.

Thistle Farms will use the following indicators to track progress towards realizing the organization's goals:

Within 6 months of renovating and completing the following facilities:
• Manufacturing facility: Thistle Farms' new 5,000 square foot manufacturing facility will allow Thistle Farms to hire 7-10 additional employees in its first 6 months of operations. As a result of the organization's expansion and increases in employment and productivity, sales will approach $2 million after 6 months.
• Thistle Stop Café: The expansion and renovation of the Thistle Stop Cafe will allow the Cafe to employ more residents and graduates and serve a larger number of patrons. After 6 months, residents and graduates will have expanded Thistle Stop Café's menu, increased its hours of operation, opened a second outpost on the campus of Vanderbilt University, and hosted larger events and meetings in the Café's new space. A fully operating kitchen space will give residents and graduates the immediate opportunity to begin learning more advanced and varied culinary skills.
• Global Education Room: Completion of Thistle Farms' Global Education Room will allow Thistle Farms' Education and Outreach Initiative to welcome larger groups of visitors and partners into the organization. Education Workshops are currently capped at 70 individuals, with consistent waitlists of 13+ individuals. These workshops will be expanded to welcome all who sign up.

Within one year of renovating and completing the following facilities:
• Manufacturing facility: 12 months after the new manufacturing facility's completion, Thistle Farms expects to have hired 17 new residents and graduates as part of its Social Enterprises. As a result of scaling Thistle Farms' manufacturing facility, sales revenue are expected to grow 41%, reaching $2.4 million in total sales revenue. Thistle Farms projects it will sell products in 700+ retail stores nationwide by December 2016.
• Thistle Stop Café: Following expansion of the Café's menu, increased hours of operation in the Café, and rental of the Café's space to larger events and meetings, the Café expects an immediate growth in sales revenue of 11%. Within three years, Café sales are projected to increase 50%.
• Global Education Room: Following completion of the Global Education Room, Thistle Farms Education & Outreach Initiative expects to welcome 700+ guests through its door in its first 12 months, alone. Workshops will increase in both quantity and capacity, increasing Café sales and spreading Thistle Farms' model of sustainable recovery to 40+ states across the nation.

In addition to the goals already listed, Thistle Farms is constantly seeking to make progress and to meet needs in the following four areas:
1. The community's need constantly outpaces Thistle Farms' capacity to meet this need. There are 100+ women on Thistle Farms' waiting list. Since February 2015, approximately 60 letters/month are received from women in jail or prison requesting a bed at the time of their release, and over 20 women contact the residential program on a weekly basis to gain a spot in the program. Thistle Farms' current efforts are focused towards expanding the organization's capacity and potential to meet the needs of each woman on the residential program's waiting list.
2. When a woman graduates from the Residential Program, with Thistle Farms' help, she must find affordable housing. Metro estimates that 3,800 new affordable housing units will need to be built each year to meet the needs of Nashville's growing population. With Thistle Farms' graduates competing against Nashville's burgeoning population for these affordable units, we do not expect the challenge to get easier. Thus, we are currently pursuing additional partnerships with low-income housing agencies to meet graduates' housing needs.
3. Along with housing, graduates are expected to secure long-term employment. While the goal is for residents and graduates to have the option of working full-time at Thistle Farms, limited physical space prevents Thistle Farms from employing every graduate. Women who wish to work outside of Thistle Farms often run up against employers who will not hire them because of their criminal records, unpaid court fees, or mental health issues. Thus, Thistle Farms is constantly pursuing partnerships with local businesses that offer employment opportunities for graduates.
4. Thistle Farms Global partners with 20 organizations across the globe focused on employing and empowering women. Thistle Farms has set up international shipping to connect products in remote areas of the globe to sales in America; however, the lead-time needed when shipping is lengthy, complicating efforts to inventory and market these products. Furthermore, it is difficult to develop day-to-day relationships with remote partners that are conducive of sharing best practices, standard working conditions, and product development strategies. Thus, Thistle Farms is pursuing communication strategies to streamline these relationships.

External Reviews


Affiliations & Memberships

Center for Nonprofit Management Excellence Network 1998

Community Resource Center - Nashville 2003

United Way Member Agency 1999

Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction Services (TAADAS) 2003



Thistle Farms, Inc.

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  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?