Oregon State University Takes State to Next Level in Hemp Industry

There are a lot of special things about Oregon. It is the home to the deepest lake in the U.S. (Crater Lake), the smallest park in the world (Mills End Park), AND the most ghost towns in the country. 

Just this month, Oregon got something else to be proud of when Oregon State University (OSU) launched the Global Hemp Innovation Center

In a press release from the university, Alan Sams, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said the OSU center will be the world’s most comprehensive resource for the study of hemp. 

“Our faculty are already recognized internationally as the go-to experts for hemp research,” Sams said. “The launch of this center signifies our commitment to continue to build upon that established expertise and grow our impact across the state, the nation and globally.”

What Does This Mean to the Hemp Industry?

With the world’s leading experts in hemp, the center will work to advance the research of hemp and its uses in many different industries. The most prominent hemp products on the market today are CBD products: oil, lotions, and CBD-infused foods and beverages. But in fact, there are thousands of ways to use hemp including bioplastics, energy, and even home building. The center hopes to find ways that hemp will solve worldwide demand for food, health products, and fiber. 

The location is ideal as Oregon is on the 45th parallel. The 45 parallel is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. This is optimal for hemp growth according to OSU faculty.

In addition to learning how to best grow and use hemp, OSU will tackle some very basic issues. The goal is to bring the hemp industry up to speed with other, more established, agricultural industries. 

OSU will help create standards including universal units of measurement by which hemp is sold and, more importantly, consistent certification standards. Both of these are now lacking in the hemp industry.


Oregon Agriculture—A Treasure of Variety

The announcement of the new research facility came as no surprise to Fusion CBD co-owner and hemp farmer Adam Kurtz. He has known for a long time that there is a lot more to Oregon than deep lakes and ghost towns. 

Adam grew up farming in New York with his parents and grandparents. When he and his partner, Ed McCauley, started Fusion CBD in 2016, Adam could have gone anywhere. But he and Ed chose Oregon for the first Fusion CBD hemp farm, Oregon Fusion. 

“Oregon is on the forefront of innovation in agriculture,” said Adam. “There are over 250 aagriculture crops grown and processed here in Oregon.” 

These products include milk, hops, cattle, berries, pears, potatoes, peppermint, wine grapes, cherries, hay, and sweet corn. 

In fact, there is only one state that has more agricultural commodities than Oregon—California. (And let’s face it, California is A LOT bigger and has a lot more people.)

Variety is the Spice of Life and Innovation

Having a wide variety of crops means that there are a lot of different types of farming equipment in Oregon. This is a really important factor in a new industry like the hemp industry. Farming equipment for hemp must be created where it did not exist before. 

“There is equipment for harvesting hops, harvesting berries, and all kinds of things,” said Adam. “So we can take different types of equipment, experiment with them, and modify as needed.” 

Adam explained that in Oregon there are custom mini-factories fabricating agricultural equipment.

Adam has no fear of innovating the equipment he needs himself. This spring Fusion custom designed and ordered a three row mechanical planter, allowing them to plant 15 acres per day. Sometimes new equipment does not work out the first time. On this particular planter, one of the rotors ended up being a little over an inch off, meaning that Adam needed several more hours to remove, re-drill, and reinstall. 

But for Adam, it was just part of the process. 

“Item number 326 on the day’s to-do list,” he laughed.

A Network of Innovative Hemp Farmers

“You don’t see as much variety and innovation in other states that have a lot fewer crops,” explained Adam. “Here in Oregon, farmers are used to taking chances and experimenting.” 

In 2018, Oregon saw the cultivation of approximately 8,000 acres of hemp. In 2019, there are over 53,000 acres registered with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. 

Of the 38,500 farms in Oregon, 1,500 grow hemp. That is a really large number when one considers what a new crop this is. 

“We are living in an explosion,” said Adam. 

Fusion CBD farms are part of that explosion. Fusion CBD works with Oregon farmers on a partnership and a contract basis. The hemp farmers within the Fusion CBD network have the same innovative spirit that Adam has. 

Billy Friebel, a Fusion CBD partner farmer, has been working with Adam for the past two years. He and Adam are continuously innovating and expanding their knowledge. 

“We learn from each other,” said Billy. “It has been a great deal.” 

The innovative spirit is the same at the Kirk family farm. The Kirks are raising hemp as a Fusion CBD contract farm

“My son Lester actually created our own bucking (shucking) method,” said Julie Kirk. 

Julie and her sister-in-law Lisa (who also works on the farm) are incredibly excited about the new Oregon State University Global Hemp Innovation Center.


History of Farming in Oregon

Oregon farmland and industry have attracted farmers for generations. So when Adam moved his young family all the way across the country to farm hemp for CBD oil, he was really continuing a long tradition of migration to the state. 

Oregon has lush forests and fertile soil for raising crops and livestock. Oregon’s temperate climate is also favorable to many crops. 

People from all kinds of backgrounds and parts of the country have settled in Oregon to farm. 

Of course, it was a lot tougher, in the beginning, to get to Oregon. Starting in the 1830s, pioneers traveled the 2,170-mile Oregon trail—many of them walking the distance next to their small wagons. A large portion of those sturdy pioneers became farmers. 

Orchards with hazelnuts and cherries flourish in the cool weather and abundance of rain so these were among the first to be farmed. In fact, Oregon is the birthplace of the Bing Cherry, now one of the most popular cherry varieties in the world. 

Starting a farm in Oregon wasn’t easy though. The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) had a commercial hold on the area with an early seed monopoly. As a result, pioneers didn’t have easy access to seeds and seedlings. That changed in 1847 when a pioneer nurseryman named Henderson Luelling settled in Oregon with his wife, eight children, and over 700 fruit tree sprouts. Thanks to Luelling, pioneer farmers were able to bypass the HBC and get their orchards going. Luelling’s influence is felt even to this day with the success of certain crops such as pears, directly traceable back to his nursery.

Agricultural Necessity—the Mother of Invention

Some crops did not grow easily in Oregon. Agricultural innovation was required right from the beginning to see what would work. The climate in Oregon varies so getting certain crops to thrive required adaptation and experimentation. 

As time passed, pioneer farmers figured out the perfect locations and methods for growing various crops. Onions grow well in the marshy land of Gaston, Cipole, and Lake Labish while the Willamette Valley became wine country. More and more different crops were added until Oregon became the #2 state in terms of number of products even though it is #9 by state size and #27 by state population.

Oregon—an Early Adopter in the Cannabis Industry

Oregon has been out ahead in the cannabis arena for some time. 

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973. This meant that the penalty for possession of a small amount of pot was on par with a traffic ticket as opposed to resulting in jail or prison time. 

Oregon was the second state to legalize medical marijuana in 1998. (Once again second to California who legalized medical marijuana in 1996.) Oregon was also one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana when Oregon voters said “yes” to legal marijuana in 2014.

Hemp Research Returns Home to Oregon

Oregon was the site of national research on hemp from the 1880s all the way up until 1932 according to Jay Noller, the Director of the Global Hemp Innovation Center. 

It is not surprising that hemp research in Oregon came to an end in 1932. This was shortly after Harry Anslinger was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Anslinger’s mission during his 32 years in that position was to rid the U.S. of all drugs—including cannabis. As a result of Anslinger’s policies, the cultivation of hemp became nearly nonexistent. This has only changed in the last few years. It was in 2018, with the passage of the Farm Bill, that it finally made sense to pour time and resources into hemp research. 

“Bringing this center to Oregon—we can also think of it as returning home,” said Noller.


Some More Oregon “Mosts” and “Firsts”

In 1971 Oregon passed the Oregon Bottle Bill and became the first state to ban the use of non-returnable bottles and cans. As a result, the use of recycling containers greatly increased and items which used to make up around 40% of roadside litter now represent about 6%. 

Portland, Oregon has more breweries than any other city in the world. Within its city limits, Portland has more than 60 breweries. (Portland also has more strip clubs than any other city in the country but we won’t talk about that!) 

Oregon also has the world’s tallest barbershop pole, standing at 72-feet tall, in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Oregon Hemp Industry Exploding – Will it be #1?

In 2018, Oregon was #3 in the production of hemp in the U.S. Montana was #1 at 22,000 acres, Colorado came in seconds with 21,578 acres, and Oregon came in #3 at 7,808 acres. 

But could Oregon be #1 in 2019 or 2020? 

Colorado, Oregon, and Kentucky are all projecting 50,000 hemp acres in 2019. Montana has taken aggressive legislative action with its governor signing three new bills into law aimed at smoothing the way for greater hemp production. 

So for now, getting the #1 spot for hemp production in 2019 is anyone’s game. 

The good news is that no matter which state gets the #1 position in hemp production, the entire U.S. wins as this valuable crop regains its well-deserved position of agricultural importance. 

For Fusion CBD, the continued progress upward of Oregon in the hemp industry is key. 

“As much as we expand our farms around the country,” said Adam, “it is vital that Fusion CBD is here in Oregon with a large farming presence.”


Bringing Small Farms Back to Life—Fusion CBD Contract Farms – Part 3

Farming can be tough. Farming a crop that has only recently been recognized as fully legal is even tougher. 

In Part 1 of our series, Bringing Small Farms Back to Life, we shared lessons learned by Fusion CBD founders Adam Kurtz and Ed McCauley as they established their first farm and created Fusion CBD in 2016—lessons they are only too glad to use to help other farmers avoid the associated financial (and emotional!) pain. 

In Part 2 we met the Freibel family, one of Fusion CBD’s Partner Farms, and we learned about Fusion CBD’s Partner Farm model. 

In our third and final installment of Bringing Small Farms Back to Life, we look at another successful farming model used by Fusion CBD—the Contract Farm. We will also meet Fusion farmers, Julie Kirk, and Lisa Conrad.

What is a Fusion CBD Contract Farm?

This model allows Fusion CBD to contract with small, experienced farmers with the equipment and know-how to grow high-grade hemp for CBD oil and other products. Contract farmers benefit from Fusion’s experience and knowledge in the industry. Contract farmers also have the peace of mind of not having to go out-of-pocket to invest in their crop. Fusion CBD benefits as well. In a world where farms have gotten larger and larger, this model allows small farms like Fusion and their contract farms to compete. 

2019 is the first year that Fusion CBD has done contract farming. Though Fusion is just starting out with this model, they will harvest 200 acres by the end of the season. In 2020, Fusion is anticipating explosive growth and is preparing for 3,000 acres of contract farm hemp crops.


Fusion CBD Contact Farm – The Kirk Family

Of the 200 acres of contract farm acreage Fusion will harvest in 2019, 25 of those acres will come from the Kirk farm located in Saint Paul, OR. 

Like most farmers, Julie Kirk is insanely busy—working long days in the office handing sales and administration and in the field. Fortunately, she has a great partner in her sister-in-law, Lisa Conrad. 

It took a few days to catch up with them for this article, but it was well worth the wait. In our interview, the passion felt by Julie and Lisa for their family farm came through loud and clear. The two laughed, talked quickly, and often spoke at the same time—yet they were easy going and easy to follow.

The Kirk Family Farm—4 Generations in the Making

Julie Kirk and her husband, Richard, have been married for 33 years. Richard is a 4th generation hops farmer. His great grandfather certified their farm through the state of Oregon in 1878. 

“We have a 340-acre farm,” explained Julie. “Most of it is planted with hops. We have raised hops since the beginning—four generations.” The Kirks sell their hops to Anheuser-Busch and a large independent hops broker. 

Lisa’s background is in sales and marketing. She worked in an auto parts store for 15 years before coming to the farm. A year ago she made a big move and began working with Julie and Richard on the farm. 

“We do a lot of multi-tasking,” laughed Lisa. “We’ll be going through the fields doing physical work and talking about what needs to get done in the office.” 

Last year the Kirks decided to get into raising hemp—a close relative of hops. In fact, cannabis and hops are cousins in the taxonomic family Cannabaceae. 

When they raised hemp in 2018, the Kirks did it on their own. In 2019 however, they decided to hook up with Fusion CBD as a contract farm for 25 acres.

Farming With Fusion CBD

“It has been really great working with Fusion CBD and Adam,” said Julie Kirk. “We have not had to go out of pocket one penny for all the hemp that we have planted with Fusion on a contract basis. It has helped a lot.” 

In addition, Julie and Lisa appreciate all of the knowledge that Fusion brings to the table. 

“We like to do things right,” said Julie. So she and Lisa have done tons of research and visiting with other farmers and people in the industry.

 As part of their learning process, the two women attend hemp industry conferences. 

“We want to be very knowledgeable,” said Julie. “We are aggressively trying to learn.”


The Kirk Hop and CBD Hemp Farm – A Family Affair

There are four generations of Kirk Farmers out in the field these days. They work side-by-side with their workers on the farm. 

“We are lucky to have a lot of help,” said Julie. 

The family farmers include Julie and her husband Richard, their son Lester, and their daughter Emily. Then there is Julie’s sister-in-law Lisa and Lisa’s daughter Makenzie. 

Julie’s grandchildren (Lester’s kids) are 5 and 6 years old. They may not be doing a lot of work yet, but they on the farm anyway soaking it all in. If they chose to go into farming, they will be the sixth generation of Kirk farmers along with Emily’s 5-month old (who is not running around the farm yet!) 

And finally, Richard’s 89-year-old father Dick, who lives right across the street, can be found riding a tractor and pitching in. 

The Kirks put in their hemp crops on June 1. Hops, unlike hemp, is actually a perennial, so does not have to be planted each year. Then on August 15 (depending on the weather), they begin to harvest hops. 

“Harvesting hops takes about 30 days,” said Julie. “And then we start harvesting hemp.” 

Julie and Lisa talked about the harvesting process. 

“We actually do two passes to the field,” said Jule. “In the first pass, we harvest the top colas—the big “glory” at the top of the plant . Then we hang them to dry for 7-10 days.” They are what is used for the production of smokable CBD Hemp. 

“In our second pass, we harvest the biomass which is used for extraction,” she went on to explain. “The biomass is where the CBD oil comes from.” 

“Last year we only had one day off between harvesting hops and harvesting hemp,” Lisa chimed in. “This year we are hoping for a week.”

Once harvest starts, workdays are 16 hours long—for two months. But even now, because they are so interested in learning and expanding, Julie and Lisa and the entire team put in 10-12 hour days regularly.


Want to be a Fusion CBD Contract Farmer? Here is what you need!

If you want to become a Fusion Farm, there are a few things you will need to do. 

First of all, a contract farm needs to be able to guarantee a certain amount of crop yield. The minimum volume is 100,000 pounds of product and biomass. 

That is A LOT of hemp! 

Like Fusion Partner Farmers, Fusion Contract Farmers provide the equipment and labor to plow, till, and disc the land. 

Contract farmers also install the drip irrigation which allows for targeted irrigation and nutrient delivery right on each row of seeds. This is different than overhead irrigation which ends up watering the entire field, on the seeds and between each row. 

Fusion’s contract farming practice includes putting the plants under plastic which keeps moisture and nutrients contained and promotes faster growth. 

“One of the things that using plastic does,” explained Julie, “is keep the ground temperature warm. That is especially good when the summer weather is mild like this year. It is also great for weed control and maximizing your water use.” 

Throughout the growing season, contract Fusion CBD hemp farmers maintain proper watering and nutrient delivery to the crop. 

And then comes harvest time. The contract farmer must have their own team to cut all hemp plants from the field and buildings to hang them to dry. Contract farms also provide their own dehumidifiers and fans if these are needed. 

Like Partner Farmers, Contract Farmers shuck the hemp biomass once it is dried and store it in a dry cool environment. In the cannabis industry, shucking, cutting off the product from the larger stalk, is referred to as “bucking”. 

“My son Lester actually created our own bucking method where we pull the plant through the hold of a hazelnut box,” said Julie. 

Contract farmers provide their own insurance on the harvest and on their workers.

Fusion CBD Brings the Know-How and the Sale

Fusion CBD brings 3 generations of general farming know-how and 3 years of specific hemp farming know-how to the table. Fusion CBD supplies 2000 seeds or starters per acre to the contract farmer and pays the contract farmer at each major milestone of the process. 

The first milestone is following field prep and irrigation, once planting is completed around June 15. 

The second milestone comes two months later in mid-August once the crop receives pre-harvest testing. 

The third milestone comes 3-4 weeks later once harvesting has begun in mid-September. 

The fourth milestone is when the Oregon Department of Agriculture has completed its required testing and the crop has been found to be in compliance. 

The fifth milestone comes during the harvest and drying process. The final 5 payments are made as materials are moved off the farm property and into the possession of Fusion CBD for sale.

The Future for Contract and Partner Farms

When it comes to working with small farmers with the contract and partner models, Fusion CBD is thinking big. If you would like to follow the expansion of the Fusion CBD farming family, you can follow #fusionfam on Instagram. If you are a farmer and would like to BE a part of Fusion CBD farm expansion, click here to contact us! We would love to talk!


Bringing Small Farms Back to Life—Friebel Fusion CBD Farm – Part 2

What do you do when you have a bunch of land, an entrepreneurial spirit, and you don’t want to farm cattle and throw music festivals anymore? 

For Debbie and Billy Friebel, the answer was to partner up with Adam Kurtz and Ed McCauley. The Friebels now partner with Fusion to grow hemp for CBD. 

As a follow up to Part 1 of our three-part series Bringing Small Farms Back to Life, we caught up with the Friebels. In this article, we find out what it is really like to farm Fusion CBD hemp.

Life Before Farming Hemp

During their 40 years of marriage, Debbie and Billy have had many businesses. They had a trucking company in California in the 80s. They moved to Oregon in 1990 and raised cattle for 20 years. 

Later, they spent six years producing music festivals on their property. The music festivals varied—some featured reggae music, others country western, and others featured local bands from Oregon. Folks attending the Friebel’s concerts enjoyed talented and known performers like Elvin BishopBrian Howe (former lead singer of Bad Company), Artie Hemphill, the Iron Horse Band, and Sol Seed among many others. 

But when the cattle were gone and the music had died away, Billy and Debbie were left with 26 acres of tillable land and nothing to do with it. They also had access to another 180 acres owned by her father right next door. This land was doing nothing as well.

Partnering with Fusion CBD

Then they met Adam and learned about the Fusion partner farm program. 

“When I met Adam, I was immediately impressed by him,” said Billy. “He made the time to come down and meet me and my family. A guy like him is what makes this work.” 

The Freibels met the requirements for partnering with Fusion. They had land, irrigation, and a significant water source. They already had some equipment. Though they didn’t have “dry barns” of their own, they were able to rent some out from a neighbor. 

“It was like it was meant to be,” said Billy. “The owner of the farm next to us lives in California and his huge barns were sitting empty. We have been able to rent these from him on a long term basis and convert them into drying facilities.” 

Plus the Friebel’s had a built-in workforce in their family and knowledge of farming, irrigation, and nutrient delivery.


The Fusion Partner Farm Model

Though the Friebel’s had farming experience, farming hemp was a whole new thing. They were pleased to learn what Fusion’s partner farm program had to offer them. 

Partner hemp farms operate under Fusion’s Department of Agriculture grower license. Fusion evaluates and designs each partner farming site for optimum production and quality. This design includes the layout of the rows, spacing of hemp plants, irrigation zones, and the design of the nutrient injection system. 

Fusion also helps its partner farms obtain the equipment, tools, and nutrients they need. 

The Friebels were happy to learn that Fusion is involved at all levels for the better part of a year for each growing season. Fusion supplies hemp seeds or starts and consults farmers on every step of the process from the beginning setup, to harvest, drying, and storage. 

The ongoing help Fusion gives its partner farms is not just an occasional phone call. They schedule visits to farms for eye-ball inspections. Fusion ensures partner farmers have the knowledge they need to avoid mistakes and be as successful as possible in producing high quality and quantity hemp crop yields. 

Finally, and probably most important, Fusion assists in selling the hemp product after harvest.

A CBD Hemp Farm is Born

After meeting Adam and learning about the opportunity to partner with Fusion, the Freibels were sold. The entrepreneurial “itch” possessed by both Debbie and Billy was as strong as ever. Now in their 60s, Debbie and Billy started again. This time as a partner farm growing hemp with Fusion. 

The Friebel’s farm is located in Roseburg, Oregon, just three hours south of Fusion’s Oregon headquarters in the Portland area. Now in their second year, they are thrilled with the experience. Not only has it been just what they needed to keep their land productive, but it has also given their entire family a business they can truly work on together.


Hemp Farming for the Whole Family

“We planted three acres last year and six acres this year,” said Debbie. “And the whole family has helped.” 

The whole family includes two daughters, both sons-in-law, and their 13 and 11-year-old granddaughters. They participate in the planting, harvesting, and shucking of the plant. 

“They all came here for laying down the plastic and planting,” said Debbie of her daughters and their families. “During the season they come off and on to help with maintenance. When we cut down the hemp plants and hang them, dry them, and shuck them they will be here too.” 

The Friebel’s daughters and their husbands have their own businesses, so working on the partner farm is something they fit into their lives. 

“It’s a lot of fun to shuck with the family in the months after harvest,” said Debbie. “We listen to music, talk, and laugh.”

The Benefits of Partnering with Fusion CBD

When asked about the benefits of partnering to grow hemp with Fusion, Debbie and Billy could not say enough. 

“Oh man! There are a lot of benefits,” said Debbie. “Adam is there from day one helping you with what you need. He helps with the irrigation tape, the plastic (that goes over plants to keep in moisture and nutrients while growing), how much to get, what to do, and so on. My husband knows a lot about farming but this has been a new thing for us. Any questions you can talk to Adam. He is a great guy and honest.” 

“Our Fusion Partner Farm was the first business we have had that actually made a profit in the first year,” Debbie said. “We have had a lot of different businesses. Usually, it takes a few years.” 

Fusion has 1, 2 and 3-year agreements. The Freibels have a 3-year agreement. But Debbie said they will continue with the partner program beyond that time frame.

The Benefits of Working with Fusion CBD

“We will always stay with Adam and Fusion. As long as he is doing it, we will be with him,” said Debbie. “When you get going in something, why change when it is going well?”

 Debbie and Billy have watched other farmers struggle as they go out on their own. 

“We know one gentleman who grew 40 acres of hemp one year and had no way to sell it. He ended up chopping it up to feed to his cattle.” recounted Debbie. “We know quite a few people that left their hemp crops in the field without harvesting. Some didn’t realize they needed permits and they grew and couldn’t sell. With Fusion, you don’t have to worry about anything. Adam is on top of everything.” 

Debbie and Billy like that Fusion is established, continuously getting new accounts, and constantly marketing. 

“We cut in September as soon as we had product dried and trimmed in the first part of November we had the product sold,” said Debbie. “Adam took bunches. You don’t have to worry and think, ‘Am I going to get rid of this?’”


Focusing on High-Quality Hemp

Having the support of Fusion on selling product has allowed the Freibels to focus on what they love, farming. 

Billy is passionate about the process of cultivating hemp. 

“We like to cut the whole plant and hang it,” he said. “We wait until the plant is 4 ½ to 5 feet tall and 3 ½ to 4 feet wide. Then we cut it and hang it to dry for 7 to 10 days. After that, we harvest and lay them out on plastic to dry some more.” 

Billy said they are very careful to make sure that every part of the plant is totally dry before packaging. They are also very careful about how they store them so they do not get smashed. 

Billy likes working with Adam because Adam is continuously innovating and learning. 

“We learn from each other,” said Billy. “It has been a great deal.” 

Billy is also really excited that hemp, unlike other crops, actually improves soil rather than depleting the nutrients. Because of this, he will be able to plant hemp in the same fields for years to come. 

“I planted in a field this year that had hemp in it last year. I also planted a brand new field,” he shared. “There was no difference between the two fields.” 

Billy is equally passionate about the product itself. “We can heal the world with this stuff. There is so much positive,” said Billy. “This is the thing that the world needs to get hooked upon. The hemp business is the thing,” 

“What better thing to be doing than to be raising something that helps people?”

The Fusion Family

When asked if she would recommend becoming a Fusion partner to other farmers, Debbie’s answer was an unequivocal “Yes!” 

“There is a lot of work involved. People don’t always realize how much work there is even with two to three acres,” Debbie stated. “It is 24/7 for a while once the harvest starts.” 

“But it is worth it,” she added. 

“We trust Adam. He is like family,” said Billy. “Our kids really like him as well. He doesn’t come up with any B.S. and we trust him.” 

Billy and Debbie are very happy to help any other farmer that is part of the Fusion family. Billy has helped out his fellow Fusion farmers with supplies and advice when they needed it. 

“I am a Karma guy,” said Billy. “I am always here to help anybody on the Fusion team.”


Bringing Small Farms Back to Life—Fusion Family Farms – Part 1

You may never have thought about it, but we owe a lot to farming. 

Farming is one of man’s oldest professions. Thanks to farming, we are no longer wandering around hunting for wild game. As far back as 10,000 years ago, farming enabled families and communities to settle in one place and build permanent towns and cities. (Thanks farmers!) 

Farming is arguably the most important profession. After all, from farms, we get our food, drink, and medicine. Farming provides the basic life necessities that make all other activities possible. 

But farming can be tough. It’s tough to predict the weather and economic trends, both of which greatly affect farmers. 

Just ask Adam Kurtz, the co-founder of Fusion CBD. Adam is a third-generation farmer. He, his parents, and his grandparents grew plants in New York state for decades. 

In 2016 Adam packed up his own family and moved to Oregon to start a new farming business. He now specializes in hemp. Not only that, he and his partner Ed are leveraging their hard-earned knowledge to help small farmers around the country grow hemp themselves. One of the ways they do this is through their partner farm program. Partner farms are walked through every step of the process of growing hemp that will ultimately be used for CBD hemp and CBD oil products.


Early Challenges in Growing Hemp for CBD Oil

Today, Fusion CBD is considered a pioneer and innovator in the hemp and CBD industry. But it has not always been easy. The first year was tough. Adam and his partner Ed McCauley learned some hard and expensive lessons. 

“In 2016 we planted our first-acre crop in Oregon,” recounts Adam. “Coming from the New York plant industry for 25 years, I had no problem successfully getting plants in the ground and growing them. “ 

“But I learned that if the hemp plants are not an early-finishing variety there is trouble. In Oregon, the rainy season starts in October. We had 10 inches of rain in that first October and the crop was not ready to be harvested before it came. We watched the mold set in on our field and the crop rot in front of us. So, it was actually a couple hundred thousand dollar learning experience that first year.”

Growing is One Thing – Legislation is Another

To add to the challenge of growing a new crop in a new state, Fusion CBD was founded two full years before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Being an early starter meant that Fusion CBD had to face the continual challenges presented by being part of an industry that was considered on the edge of the law. That all changed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which officially removed CBD hemp oil from the DEA schedule 1 list of narcotics. 

Now in their third year, Adam and ED look back on hard lessons learned and are eager to share their knowledge with the hopes that their journey will be an easier one for other farmers. Fusion CBD’s involvement in the industry is multifaceted and ranges from growing and selling from their own farms, contract farms and working with other farmers around the country to forward the industry overall. 

One of the most important aspects of their activities is the Partnership Farms Program. 

“From my background, I believe in small farms,” said Adam. “They are the backbone of this country that has been lost. It’s tough to grow vegetables and making money. How people shop and where they get produce from has changed so much. So, it’s nice to be able to kinda get back to small farmers and give them a chance and hope.”

Partner Farm Crucial for Fusion CBD Hemp production

Selling product of the highest quality is of the utmost importance to Fusion CBD. For this reason, the Partner Farm program is critical. It allows Fusion to oversee the cultivation of high-quality products which Fusion then usually buys right back from its partner farms. 

“Our partner farms help really feed into our supply chains. We rely on our partner farms,” said Adam. “The partner farms are generallyf 3 to 5 acres. Our biggest partner farm is 16 acres. Fusion buys 75-80% of the product that our partners produce so they don’t have to compete to the marketplace which is great for them. This is also great for Fusion because we can have a very controlled quality product, especially for the smokable hemp market. So, the partner farms are essential to Fusion CBD.”


Benefits for Fusion CBD Partner Farms

Adam and Ed are able to save their partner hemp farmers ten of thousands of dollars within the first year by guiding them through Fusion’s standard operating procedures for growing practices. 

“We’ve gone through the learning curve, challenges, and hurdles over the last 3 years,” said Adam. “We are able to take our experience and expertise and share it with other farmers so they don’t have to trial stuff out on their own. So within the first year, they easily recoup their involvement with us.” 

Fusion does not charge its partner farms a consulting fee. Fusion simply gets a percentage of the crop once harvested. Partner Farms investment with Fusion is very minimal until the product is actually harvested and sold. This is important because cash flow is always a concern for farmers.

Hemp Farm Partnerships Around the U.S.

Fusion Partner Farms can be found in several states in the U.S. This year Fusion has 20 partner hemp farms in Oregon, Tennessee, Maryland, and New York. Adam supplies all of the Oregon partner farms with the hemp plant plugs, propagated seeds grown in their greenhouses in Boring OR. Partner farmers in New York, Maryland, and Tennessee pick up their propagated plant starts at Fusion’s New York greenhouse. 

This year Fusion partner farms accounted for 300+ acres of crop. Adam and Ed’s goal for next year is 3000 acres.

Hard Lessons for Partner Farms that Don’t Follow Fusion’s Standard Operating Procedures

Unfortunately, a few Partner Farms have had to learn their own hard lessons. 

“We’ve found that if farmers don’t adhere and listen to the suggestions we give them, they are not as successful,” said Adam. “Case in point. One farmer was told to start harvest at a particular time. He waited an additional 2 weeks to start harvest and he was only able to successfully harvest 6,000 pounds out of an anticipated 12,000-15,000 pound crop. This was a huge loss both for the farmer and for us.

 “Another farmer was not aggressive in terms of pulling males hemp plants out of the field in year two.” This is important because male hemp plants will pollinate the females and biomass will be loaded with seeds. “When he did finally pull the males out, he left them on the side of the field so that ultimately pollinated and damaged the overall crop.” 

But for the majority of partner farms who do follow Fusions protocol, the partnership is hugely successful.

Debbie Friebel and her husband Bill are in their second year as a Fusion CBD partner Farm. She and her husband of 40 years have had many businesses together including cattle farming and producing music festivals. 

“Our Fusion Partner Farm was the first business we have had that actually made a profit in the first year,” Debbie said. “We have had a lot of different businesses. Usually, it takes a few years.”

Fusion Partner Farm Model

Ready to jump in and farm some hemp? Or just curious to know what it takes to be a Fusion Partner farm? Well, here are the details. 

Fusion partner farms sign 1, 2 or 3-year agreements. The longer the agreement the lower the percentage of the crop the partner farm turns over to Fusion. 

Most of Fusion’s partners have indicated that they plan to stick with Fusion as a partner farm beyond their commitment because of Fusion’s constant innovation in the hemp CBD farming industry. However, a few of Fusion’s partner farms struck out on their own after learning the ropes in their first year. 

“We have had a couple of partner farmers just sign up for a year and then go out on their own,” said Adam. “They might be successful or might not but there are no hard feelings on our part at all,” said Adam. “We are building something much bigger here which is a community.”


What you Need to be a Fusion CBD Partner Farm

As you can imagine, not just anyone qualifies to be a Fusion partner farm. Partner farms are required to have a minimum of 10 acres of tillable land, irrigation and a significant water source. 

Farmers must already possess basic farm equipment for “row cropping”. This equipment includes a tiller, discs, and a tractor, among other things. 

They also need a 5000 square foot (or more) barn or other dry building for the harvest. In that structure, the farmers need dehumidifiers, industrial fans, and heat. Partner farm must have general labor and farm hands as well as basic knowledge of farming, irrigation, and nutrient delivery (gotta feed those plants!)

The Finance of Farms and Success

Finally, partners need proof of funds needed to cover their own costs which is about $15,000 per acre. When one considers that the average cost of starting a new business from scratch is $30,000 and the fact that 20% of new businesses fail in their first year, this is really an amazing opportunity. So far, 100% of the partner farms that have followed Fusion’s SOPs have turned a profit in the first year.

And this success has been the key to Fusion’s partner farm expansion. At a time when U.S. farmers are struggling to make ends meet with other crops, the hemp industry and CBD is a modern day gold rush. For farms wishing to participate in this gold rush without the risk of losing the farm (no pun intended), the Fusion partnership model is great. 

In part two of this series, you will learn about the day-to-day on a Fusion partner farm and how this program changed the lives of one farming family for the better.