Different Missions, Compatible Ministry
St. Columba has long held a core value of environmental stewardship. Guests and campers see this principle at work through the LED efficient lighting we've used for nearly 20 years, how we use earth-friendly cleaning and maintenance products as we care for our precious grounds and facilities, and the nature education programs we provide each summer to children. We wanted to do more.
Thistle & Bee Enterprises is a new nonprofit organization/social enterprise aiming to provide workforce preparedness and healing programs designed to transform women who are victims of human trafficking and addiction. Modeled after Nashville-based Thistle Farms, Thistle & Bee saw a system in Memphis equipped poorly to address the suffering and issues surrounding women in Memphis who are underappreciated, often unknown, and trapped in dangerous lives. Thistle & Bee wanted to do more.
Blessed with many acres of old soybean fields, St. Columba wanted to use the land, tractors, tillers and resources originally donated by James Scheibler to launch farm and garden programs that would serve as outdoor classrooms for retreat guests and campers. We recognized we had many of the right resources to assist with the launch of a large garden programs, what we didn't have was the right staff.
Thistle & Bee, fostered by a compatible core value of environmental stewardship, needed places to grow the products that would support the "social enterprise" aspect of their budding organization. That is to say, they wanted to grow herbs, flowers and cultivate all natural honey to sell in Memphis that would create the necessary revenue to fund jobs and healing programs for women, but didn't own land to grow their products. With the help of a grant to hire a professional gardener, Thistle & Bee had the right staff and volunteers too!
A collaboration was called for: St. Columba would provide land, Thistle & Bee would provide the man- and women-power. St. Columba would benefit by the addition of on-site learning areas and beautiful new gardens; Thistle & Bee would benefit by having ample space to grow their flowers, herbs and bee operations. Win-Win!
Gardens & Apiaries
St. Columba is now home to a one-acre flower and herb farm, 13 honeybee hives, and Thistle & Bee is even helping us expand a small food garden. St. Columba composts its food waste to make quality soils for use in the gardens. Campers and guests now have opportunities to visit the hives and gardens to learn more about the ecosystem, discuss our role in preserving an important environmental balance, and take pride in knowing that organizations working together can accomplish much more together than they ever could apart.
Visit www.thistleandbee.org to get involved!