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 Bishop, Brian 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.”