Two groups of Mount Aloysius College students made a field trip to Golden Farms in Portage Township Friday for hands-on learning with hemp.
Farm owner Andy Golden and the college formed a partnership last fall to their mutual benefit.
A course was created, and offered for the first time this spring, to provide students with the opportunity to see a real-world business at work. The company benefits through marketing campaigns from the Mount students.
“I think you guys could bring a lot to the table in helping our small business grow,” Golden said.
Though the farm has produced a variety of crops over the years, the current endeavor is in the cannabidiol (CBD) oil field.
Golden, with the help of his father, Vince, and business partner Matt Sinosky, created Innovative Extracts. The company sells full-spectrum CBD oils and creams.
Jodi Blubaugh, assistant professor of business who’s teaching the class, said this is a great opportunity for the students to to get experience.
“This is our clinicals,” she said, comparing the trip to a nursing program.
Currently, students are working on posters, promo videos and an April 18 grand-opening event for the farm store, 1146 Munster Road, to sell CBD products.
There’s also a educational handbook planned to be created for Innovative Extracts. Blubaugh said teaching consumers about CBD and its benefits is a key focus on the course.
Before all of that could be done, the class needed to see what Innovative Extracts was doing. Andy Golden took the group on a tour of the entire facility, showing them everything from the extraction process to raw CBD oil ready to be processed.
Blubaugh said, so far the Goldens and Sinosky have been open and receptive to the ideas presented from the Mount.
Every week the students meet to further discuss how to better the company and advance the product.
But this isn’t just a business class. There are students from the marketing, communications, biology and graphic design disciplines enrolled too.
“I’m learning so much more here than with exams,” business major Anne Way said.
Way added that one day she wants to open a local business, so getting to see one in action is invaluable to her.
Having students from different majors work together helps the whole project, according to Blubaugh. She said she’s already seen the group cooperate both on group projects and together for solo work.
The entire operation, from seed to harvest and extraction, is done on the premises, Sinosky said. The only outsourced aspect is when the product is sent to a bottling facility here in Pennsylvania before being shipped back to the Portage Township business.
The first hemp crop was collected last fall, and the initial products were available for sale around Thanksgiving.
Sinosky said Innovative Extracts is the only company in the state that is doing everything on-site. They are doing some hemp processing for other companies as well.
All of the oils and creams are pharmaceutical grade and tested at least six times during the growing phrase through to the final product. Lab results can be found by visiting the product description on the website, www.ie-cbd.com, or by scanning the QR code on the product.
Way isn’t the only undergrad getting good experience from the partnership.
Daniel Harris, a communications student, said he is looking forward to creating videos and expanding his portfolio with the work he’s doing for Innovative Extracts. He’s also really interested in seeing how the hemp is turned into CBD oils and creams.
Biology major Emily Sanders added that the real-life experience she’s getting is also great.
Andy Golden said he wanted to get in on the CBD market early because he saw it as a good opportunity. After visiting with a friend in Colorado, Golden pitched the idea of growing hemp to his father, who said “as long as it’s legal” then he was on board.
Vince Golden said the whole process is all natural, and “the key thing is this product helps people.”
Moving into 2020, the group is planning to downsize their crop and focus more on maximizing the yield, according to Andy Golden.
Innovative Extracts is also exploring options of penetrating new markets, which is part of where the Mount comes in.
“What’s going to sell our product is our story,” Sinosky said.
That story being the company is veteran-owned and a small, rural operation that’s trying to cater to both internet age consumers and older.
Blubaugh explained that the college is hoping to offer this course again in the fall, either with Innovative Extracts or another local company who can benefit the students.