Vince Golden

Farmer Vince Golden shows off an all-natural honey made from his bee hives and sold at their store Innovative Extracts in Portage. 

Farming is in Vince Golden’s blood.

He grew up on a dairy farm near Wilmore, and when it was time to settle down and start a family he knew he wanted his children to grow up experiencing physical work and a country atmosphere.

Golden remembers his family’s old homestead fondly – a place where he labored before and after school, and a gathering spot for family.

“It was a good way to grow up,” he said.

The 71-year-old still works at his 141-year-old farm, which he bought in 1978, though the crops have varied throughout the years.

His most recent endeavor is growing hemp, which is then processed onsite into cannabinoid oil products and sold at the store Innovative Extracts on the property.

That upbringing instilled in him a strong work ethic that has led him through several endeavors, including military service, college and teaching for more than 30 years.

Golden was part of the first graduating class from Forest Hills School District, and his skill at football granted him access to Millersville University.

However, Golden spent just one year at the school before transferring to the California (Pa.) because of what he called a better industrial program.

“I just fell in love with the place,” he said.

Summoning a great deal of focus, he finished his undergraduate degree of industrial arts in three years.

Then in 1970, he began a graduate degree program at St. Francis University, which he completed in one year because he’d enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Golden said he finished the program quickly because the timeframe to basic training was short.

 Military journeys

His time in the military was during the Vietnam War, though he never saw combat.

Golden had other duties, such as the leadership position he was given as an experiment after boot camp. The army wanted to see if a civilian could lead a company, so they gave him the “Field First” rank and all the responsibilities, such as duty assignments.

He worked alongside the enlisted officers and said he performed his obligations diligently.

“Some of the finest people I ever met were in the military,” Golden said.

During his time, he also spent some time at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he took command of a small unit of men who were being discharged. 

Golden said he gave them respect and they returned the favor.

After that stint, he went on to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Belgium, where he finished his military career.

While overseas, Golden was “very busy” with administrative work. 

His final assignment was processing soldiers returning home from the war – an encounter that’s stuck with him ever since.

He reflected on the fact that these men never had a transitional period – that they could have seen combat on Monday and by Friday be stateside.

“That experience really affected me,” Golden said.

Farm and classroom

By 1973, he had returned to the area to help on the family farm and picked up a job working at Admiral Peary Vocational Technical School in Ebensburg.

Golden said he learned a lot during his time there, but soon after, he was hired at Greater Johnstown School District, where a new program was developed for industrial arts.

Golden designed the curriculum from scratch and combined aspects of hands-on learning and academic studies.

He taught the students how to work on items such as lawnmowers while also instructing them on the fundamentals of electricity and engines.

“It was a very successful course,” Golden said.

Greater Johnstown was also where the educator met his wife, Loretta, who taught math in the district.

A memory that sticks out is the 1977 Johnstown Flood – and the stench.

For some time after the flood, Golden said, students would bring appliances to fix and he could always tell which had been submerged.

“They had that smell,” he added.

Business, mentoring

The rest of his time teaching were some of the happiest years of his life, he said – especially the 1980s and ’90s.

Golden said at that time, the students were more receptive and respectful and that made it the “most enjoyable profession” someone could have.

“Those years of teaching and that experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.

He retired roughly 10 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped him from staying busy.

On his farm, he’s dabbled in malting grains, which were sold to local breweries, flower milling, buckwheat and, of course, hemp.

The last endeavor was decided upon because it was a good business venture, Golden said.

He and his son, Andy, began operating that venture in 2019.

The younger Golden considers himself “lucky” to have the opportunity to spend extra time with his father.

“We kind of complement each other,” he said.

Andy Golden sees his father as a “mentor” who taught him and his siblings how to be the best they could be and think creatively. 

The elder Golden said he didn’t want to raise children – he wanted to raise adults, so he gave his children different tasks around the property and taught them life lessons.

He also instilled in them his strong work ethic.

Andy Golden added that his father empowered him to think freely and reach his highest goals.

He commended his father’s ability to problem-solve and described him as a “very positive individual.”  

Andy Golden said one of the driving forces behind his decision to join the military was his father’s service and credits his success in the special forces with how he was raised.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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