Temple Extracts’ fine oil is a product of its founders’ lifelong commitment to organics and sustainability.
When and if the potential of the cannabis movement of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is fully realized—and the earth and its inhabitants are renewed, restored, and ultimately saved—profound thanks will go to those in the cannabis community who served as resolute custodians of sustainable agricultural and manufacturing practices. Temple Extracts will be among that group of generational heroes. The Nevada City, California-based producer of ultra-pure cannabis oil extracts is the brainchild of Michael Bardin and David St. Clair, longtime farmers steeped in pure, healthy living and the philosophy of life that ungirds organics and sustainability, values imbuing their products, their business, and their relationships.
Indeed, the attributes contained in Temple Extracts oils are listed like holistic buzzwords on TempleExtracts.com. “Ultra-Pure THC & CBDs Ecologically Farmed Top Shelf Cannabis Strain Specific, Single Origin, Small Batch Extracts Artisan, Boutique and Heritage Genetics No Additives, Ever!” Punctuation aside, the words aptly describe Temple’s commitment to quality as well as the underlying passions of its founders.
Los Angeles native St. Clair came from the organic farming, nutraceutical field and has been a cannabis grower, farmer, and breeder for thirty years. “I was part of the farming project at [University of California at] Santa Cruz with Alan Chadwick, who was one of the grandfathers of the organic movement,” he said. “I worked in medicinal herbs in Oregon and California, and then in nutraceuticals, formulating products in the natural health field, for many years.”
In 1991, he moved from southern Oregon to Nevada City, which he and Bardin proudly call home. “The thing about Nevada City,” said Bardin, “is that it is our roots, our family, where Temple was born and thrives. It’s where we are and where we want to be.” A 17-year grower originally from Newton, Massachusetts, Bardin met St. Clair twelve years ago in Nevada City. After working together in the industry for about six years, Bardin, who had just bought his first vape pen, decided he wanted to get into extraction and suggested the idea to St. Clair. With their experience in the cannabis industry, combined with their knowledge of organics, they had the opportunity to create something unique at a time when there were few quality products on the market, especially for health-conscious consumers.
But they also wanted to work with their “family” from the Proposition 215 “gray” industry, a huge network of growers committed to producing organic, sustainable cannabis that could be used in the production of oil. These were people they had known for years, who would provide the community of support they would need to launch their new company, which they would underwrite themselves so they could work at a pace of their own choosing.
“David and I funded this company,” explained Bardin. “We spent two years tweaking our process to make sure it was at the point where we really liked the product before we put it out as a brand with our name on it.”
Temple Extracts debuted in the summer of 2013 and has since developed a reputation for producing consistently high-quality oil. Being known for consistency is crucial, especially in a sector of the industry that has literally exploded in the past few years. But California is also a developing market in terms of standards and regulations, and no single brand has yet emerged as the clear leader in cannabis oil. The way is clear for brands to build on the successes they have already attained, as long as they can maintain the quality for which they are known. For the gang at Temple, that should not be a problem. If Bardin and St. Clair (and the rest of the team) share a common trait, it is a palpable optimism in the future and an unshakeable belief in their shared vision. That sense of purpose is a quality that attracts like-minded people to the mission.
Case in point: Michael Straus, a relatively recent addition to Temple’s extended family. Straus is an expert in organic foods and sustainable agriculture and a scion of Marin County’s Straus family, whose matriarch, Ellen, was a renowned environmentalist and founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust in 1980. She also co-founded the family dairy farm in Marshall with her husband, Bill, in the late 1940s. Decades later, during rough years for dairy farmers in Northern California, Michael’s older brother, Albert, converted the farm to organic and in 1994 renamed it the Straus Family Creamery. Going organic made the creamery the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi River and ensured its survival.
Michael, who specialized in public relations and strategic marketing, provided marketing for the creamery and went on to found a PR agency focused on organics and sustainability, in addition to many other eco-oriented projects. About a year ago, he began collaborating with the Temple family as a primary consultant, bringing a wealth of knowledge about how to create an organic brand that would resonate with people.
His introduction to Temple had a touch of kismet. Straus already had developed an interest in cannabis, which he thought needed some help in an area he knew well. “I saw there was a need to develop the organic, sustainable sector in cannabis, and I wanted to see if I could help,” he said. “A week later, as soon as I became clear about that, my friend who is working with Temple called. Two weeks later, I was working with them.”
“Everything Starts With The Farm.”
In the cannabis oil business, the source material’s quality is essential, which is one reason why Temple Extracts’ motto reads, “Purity, quality, sustainability.” Everything starts with the flower and the ingredients. “We love raw farms, being able to go out and gather the best ingredients,” said Bardin. “That’s where our real advantage lies. Our everyday is making sure we have the highest quality of everything to put out there for our clientele.”
Even before Temple was founded, Bardin and St. Clair had developed relationships with growers throughout the state. Now those relationships needed to transition into the new reality of regulations while maintaining the same standards. Temple is not concerned.
“When you are dealing with organic, artisan farmers, they take pride in the fine craft of organic farming,” said Bardin. “They are always trying to be more organic, more sustainable, a better ‘cure’… So, there is a built-in system that maintains quality because of the pride they take in their product. As the craft of organic cannabis farming keeps evolving, so do our farmers.
“While there are no required standards,” he continued, “we do thorough testing on all the trim we receive to ensure that what goes into the oil is pesticide-free. There are challenges with ensuring this level of integrity, specifically as the testing requirements recently changed to parts per billion, but we don’t falter from this high standard even if it means compromising revenue.”
Of course, as Straus commented, organic is about more than pesticides. “It’s a fair thing to say nobody should ever be smoking poisons, period, but pesticides are just the beginning,” he said. “The fact is, there are all sorts of other important agricultural practices, like how much water you use and how you treat the land.”
“We’re into the entourage effect, which is only available through whole plant, terpene-rich, ecologically grown extracts,” added St. Clair. “There is a wellspring of sustainability and biological relationships from which all the organic methods and processes derive, but there are nuances within that. The concept of organics is that you build a healthy soil and the plant grows itself. You work within the soil to get the result you want in the plant. It is a concept has been marketed and promoted within the cannabis industry.”
Indeed, as relatively new as organic cannabis farming may be, innovative techniques are taking root. For example, Dr. Elaine Ingham, a microbiologist, has created a mass movement in cannabis with compost tea brewers. “I know lots of growers who use the technique to create a healthy biosystem in their soil,” said St. Clair.
The “teas” create a strong plant that is resistant to pathogens like molds and mildews, explained Bardin. “With commercial farming, the soil is stripped. But with healthy soil, only good things flourish,” he said.
“We’re a company that focuses on solutions, and our work is on the positive end of everything.” —David St. Clair
In short, the future of these values-based relationships looks good. “We’re solidifying strategic partnerships with farmers who are committed to the highest standards of production,” said Bardin. “This will ensure we continue to acquire the same or higher-quality inputs after January 1, 2018.”
Building the Temple Brand
Temple also has embarked on a rebrand complete with new packaging that better reflects the values of the company. It was a somewhat painful, but necessary, process the company had not yet endured. “We had a lot to say, especially with our new packaging in a small space, and we had to get really clear on who we are, our values as a company, and what we wanted to portray,” said Bardin. “We did this through an extensive process with an Italian design firm. [See “More than a Pretty Package” in the July 2017 issue of mg. —Ed.] While it was challenging, we are ultimately very happy with the results, which we are currently launching as a new brand.”
Added St. Clair, “We have always had a premium of the highest quality, so what was most important was to develop our branding to be able to reflect that quality to our customers. We also wanted to reflect the idea of ‘explore your inner sanctuary,’ of the body as a temple. Cannabis, like yoga, can help bring the body back to balance.”
The team has high hopes for the new packaging.” Dispensaries are always welcoming of new packaging, new displays, new posters and educational materials,” said St. Clair. “It’s all embraced by our dispensary partners.”
While not a partnership per se, Temple recently struck a deal to supply pods for the PAX Era, a sleek, discreet device that works flawlessly with oil. “Our friends at Palm Springs Safe Access who share our values and maintain an exclusive relationship with us, made the introduction by sharing and praising our oil to PAX,” explained Bardin. “They made a three-way introduction that we then pursued.
“We are happy to see the industry maturing around the devices being created to vaporize cannabis and cannabis oils,” he added. “As those devices become more evolved, like PAX, they can vaporize cannabinoids and terpenes without burning them, utilizing proper vaporization of the biochemistry of the plant. It transfers the benefits of the oil to the body. So yes, we were stoked to be invited to be a filler with PAX, because that device really showcases our oil.”
One of the most exciting endeavors being undertaken by Temple Extracts is the development of a new line of CBD products that are almost ready for primetime. “Rather than hemp-derived CBD distillates, these are a whole-plant product that has different properties in the body,” said St. Clair.
“These are ecologically grown, whole-plant, CO2-extracted, terpene-rich extracts,” Bardin said. “We’ve been growing and breeding CBD plants and working with CBD breeders and researchers for the past couple of years, and we are really excited. Stay tuned over the next couple of months as we start releasing a new level of CBD extracts.”
‘The Apple of 510 Cartridges’
Building on its redesign, Temple also is about to release a 510 cartridge incorporating new technology that St. Clair said will revolutionize the sector. “Unlike ceramic carts on the market that tend to burn the oil, our new cartridge has a ceramic core that is wickless and uses special voltage and ohms that allow for perfect vaporization of the terpenes,” he explained. “What we’ve found is that the most superior evolution yet is within this new technology we’re launching. It’s an inexpensive device that will be like the Apple of 510 cartridges.”
Settling into Expansion
Temple also wants to settle into permanent digs and has been looking at locations throughout the state, only to wind up back home in Nevada City, as it seems was meant to be. A building in town suddenly became available, and the company jumped. “As a family, we decided it felt right, and we fell back on community,” said Bardin, who is working on a letter of intent to take over enough space to centralize all the company’s functions. “It will be our manufacturing and processing operation and hopefully also some office space,” he added. “We also have been working with a group of CBD geneticists and hope to be able to store our library of CBD at this location.”
Strategically, the new home is a part of Temple’s larger strategy to expand statewide while maintaining standards and quality control in production, with source material, and in the field. “We want to maintain the educational control within the dispensaries, so we developed our own distribution system and are working to develop a team and system that can scale throughout the state,” said St. Clair, adding the company’s products are in about fifty dispensaries, with more being added every week. “What this means is sales teams and brand ambassadors will be more involved helping educate patients as well as retail workers.”
The focus on education extends industrywide and to the consumer. “Ultimately, it’s about creating a massive educational movement that is positive,” said St. Clair. “You can focus on the problems and what’s not working or be a part of the solution. We’re a company that focuses on solutions, and our work is on the positive end of everything.”
But they are not in a rush. “We like to do things slowly and naturally,” said Bardin. “You can see the methodical scaling of our brand. We are planning on coming out with other products, but first we want to dial-down into how we’re going to do them and make sure everything is perfect before we launch anything.”
Small Company, Big Vision
In trying to understand where the wellspring of optimism coded into in the DNA of the Temple people comes from, one returns inexorably to their raison d’être. “We’re guided by our vision and our mission, and then we execute that in a fiscally responsible way. And that’s what has brought our success,” said Bardin. “We don’t want to cut those corners. We’d rather be a little bit smaller company and be about extreme vision and quality and education. We’d rather be that than a Hershey’s chocolate bar.”
Straus plans to maintain his association with Temple as he develops his own cannabis brand, Hugo Straus, which is slated to launch in November. The new endeavor will be separate from the Straus Family Creamery, of which he is not an owner, but it will conform to the same organic philosophy. “I’m interested in cannabis because I think there is an opportunity to do something disproportionately larger,” he said. “We need to create an organic-sustainable movement, but I also believe there is an opportunity to do something much bigger with the creativity, ingenuity, and energy coming out of the cannabis sector.
“One of the reasons I liked marketing milk was because it was so ubiquitous,” he explained. “You could reach a lot of people with a set of environmental sustainability and consciousness-related messages through a product that was in everyone’s refrigerator. Cannabis is even more so, and the opportunity to use it as a vehicle to raise social and environmental messages is quite exciting.”
For St. Clair, the way forward is about faithfully following a path laid out for him long ago. “I feel like I’m a visionary on the future,” he said. “I always have been. I feel like one world is failing right now, falling apart in mayhem and destruction. And that while that old-world system, based on old principles, is going through that decaying process, there is another world that’s being birthed right now, like the phoenix.
“That phoenix rising out of the ashes is a new earth and world based on principles of cooperation, collaboration, and community,” he continued. “It’s based on people working together on sustainability. That’s the future we’re involved in. The sustainable new future. It’s not about gain or profit, but an open-source collaboration worldwide. That’s the energy, the vortex of power, that feeds us, and that’s what we tune into. It’s what gives us inspiration and clarity to see how to proceed.”