SUNY Cobleskill’s minor in cannabis is preparing students for jobs in the industry

April 11, 2023 · Syracuse.com

SUNY Cobleskill is a college geared toward agriculture, farming and sustainability. Students study the ins and outs of agriculture, from animal science to landscape management. The school also has major programs in graphic design technology and the culinary arts.

Starting last fall, students from these courses of study have consulted with Lesley Judd to join SUNY-Cobleskill’s newest minor: Cannabis Studies.

“Almost every freshman we get here comes to talk to me about interest in doing the minor,” Judd said. “They see opportunities for entrepreneurship and owning your own business, or just possibly being a part of writing this new history of (cannabis) now being legal, at least at the state level.”

The cannabis studies minor has six mandatory classes for 16 total credits.

To complete the major, students are required to take Cannabis Management, Cannabis Harvest and Analysis, Soil Fertility, Cannabis Cultivation, Integrated Pest Management, and a sixth course students choose in agriculture, chemistry or irrigation.

Judd teaches the three cannabis-specific classes, working to make sure students learn a broad range of skills to prepare them for roles in any part of the cannabis production process.

In the spring class, Cannabis Cultivation, students experiment with different growing techniques in Cobleskill’s greenhouses and growth chambers, Judd said. In the fall, Judd takes students out into the field to harvest the fruits of their labor while taking Cannabis Harvest and Analysis. Cannabis Management addresses practical necessities to work in the business, such as applying for the different licenses, funding and grants needed for adult-use cannabis and CBD.

At this time, Judd said there are eight students officially in the minor. Class sizes are small as well, Judd said, with under 20 students in each class. This creates space for Judd to take the class on field trips to local farms where students can practice cultivation, and to local businesses where students can see the ever-growing collection of products that can be made from cannabis. Judd said these field trips seem to be inspiring for the students.

She has a student in the culinary arts that wants to experiment with incorporating THC in beer, she said.

Judd has taken her class to farms across Schoharie county to help harvest hemp and to Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards in Onondaga County to study CBD infusion techniques being used in its kitchen. She said most local businesses are glad to see the workforce growing.

“I’ve just been really fortunate that a lot of growers and processors in the state are willing to talk to my class or let me bring my class out there,” Judd said. “They are desperately needing educated people in the workforce that have some idea of how all this works.”

Because this industry is so new in New York, Judd said college campuses are carrying the brunt of the responsibility to catch up with places like Colorado, California and Canada, where growing cannabis has been legal for much longer. Judd said she has been looking at innovations in the field at other New York farms and bringing that into her coursework in order to keep the class up to date with the fast-paced industry.

After observing an increase in aquaponics — farmers growing cannabis with fish, using the fish waste as a fertilizer — Judd incorporated experiments with those techniques into the class. She’s also keeping an eye on neighboring college’s cannabis programs of study, as New York colleges are a huge part of pioneering how cannabis is grown in this region, even bringing professors from Cornell University to speak with her class.

“They are really going to help write the book for the best ways to grow and the best genetics to use, and it’s going to be really important to see where they go,” Judd said. (Full Story)

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