Internship with Gaia Herbs

This Summer, my Kenan Fellows internship will be with Gaia Herbs, an herbal supplement company based out of Brevard, NC. This company has approximately 300 employees spread over four locations in the western North Carolina region. The company was founded in the late ’90s by Rick Scalzo out of his Massachusetts garage. Today, the company ships to several countries around the world and has a supply chain that comes from 6 of the 7 continents, including the farm on their main property. There are over 200 different products that Gaia produces, with several new supplements currently in the works. Gaia’s newest project centers on growing hemp and creating a full-spectrum hemp product, all while researching the chemical compositions and effects of cannabinoids as they enter the CBD market.

While my official mentor is Human Resources Director, Jennifer Lynch, I will be shadowing several departments including quality control/assurance, the farm, and production. I look forward to learning about the role that each of these departments plays in helping Gaia move their products from seed to shelf!

Gaia Herbs: Quality Control and Assurance

This week, I have been shadowing the Quality Assurance/Control team at Gaia Herbs. The goal of the Quality team here at Gaia is to ensure that all products not only meet FDA and ICH regulations but that they pass the more rigorous standards set by the Gaia Herbs mission of Connecting Plants & People™. They do this by sampling and testing each batch of raw materials that come into the manufacturing process using the methods of analytic chemistry. This entails various forms of chromatography and spectrometry for determining chemical compositions of the herbal extracts, using statistical analysis as the guide for determining principal components and the presence or absence of adulterants.

A model built from FT-NIR spectroscopy.

This week, I was able to review several of their methodologies and even got to gather data from their newest hemp product in the lab using FT-NIR spectrometry. This data was used to help build a chemical profile for the product, which will be used as a model to test against as the lab analyzes incoming product on a daily basis.

Model Built by Chemist
This is one of the models for comparing incoming products with controlled variations on existing products.

Several things that I was surprised by…

  • Meet Your Herbs program
    • This program allows Gaia product users to follow their herbal supplements from “seed to shelf.” The quality control team ensures that all customers can track the
  • The size of the team needed for testing
    • This department employs approximately 20 people for all of the QA/QC processes. This included approximately 12-15 scientists and several lab techs.
  • The explicitness of SOPs and Methodologies
    • Gaia, in their commitment to transparency, honesty, and quality, has created Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for each of their departments that describe, in detail, what each of the roles requires as team members complete their part of the supplement process. These, along with internal white papers that expand on their methodologies, provide a complete guide for processes within the lab.


Kenan Fellows at NCCAT

“Lake PD” from Wednesday night

This week, the 2019-2020 Kenan Fellowship began at NCCAT in Cullowhee, NC. Here, the fellows were introduced to the mission of the organization and the network of incredible educators who have paved the way for excellence in teaching for educators all over North Carolina. During this week of training and orientation, the fellows have been able to develop their personal plans for ongoing professional development, outline the projects and products that they will be sharing at the end of their year-long fellowship, and connect as a network of passionate educators who are working to bridge the worlds of work and education together. I am looking forward to the coming weeks when I will be partnering with Gaia Herbs of Brevard, NC to learn more about the work of the agricultural industry on which their work is centered, especially as I develop projects for my classroom and school. While I will miss the connections and camaraderie of this cohort of truly inspirational educators, I look forward to taking this energy into the community back home.

Here are some of the pics from this week.

Our group at Judaculla Rock.
Our fearless leader, Mark Townley, demonstrating the kick-nets at the river.
While not an official part of the week, our morning paddling trips were a great way to bond and calibrate before each day.