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.”