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 flowers. 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 buds” at the top of the plant . Then we hang them to dry for 7-10 days.” The buds are what is used for the production of smokable Hemp CBD pre-rolled cones.
“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 buds 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 buds 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!