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 flowers 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.”