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.

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