Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, May 21, 2021, Page 9, Image 9

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    Friday, May 21, 2021 9
Economics of hemp prove to be vexing
For the Capital Press
Airlie CBD Pharms
Business partners Kyle Stratten, left, and Chase
Schuyler examine last year’s 60-acre crop. Airlie CBD
Pharms focuses on smokable flower shipped mostly
to states and countries where THC is illegal.
Smokable hemp
top product for
high-volume sales
For the Capital Press
Airlie CBD Pharms aims
to become the Amazon.
com of hemp.
“Like Amazon, you
get it two days later,
sometimes the next day,”
Chase Schuyler said of
his operation in Oregon’s
Willamette Valley.
In two years, Airlie
CBD Pharms has become
one of the largest indus-
trial hemp sellers in the
U.S., shipping an aver-
age of $20,000 worth of
product daily — with
some days as high as
“That is 20-30 pack-
ages a day,” Schuyler’s
business partner, Kyle
Stratten, said. This year
they installed an order
processing and tracking
system to streamline the
“Kyle does an abso-
lutely amazing job at
sales,” Schuyler said.
“Every month that goes
by he finds his footing in
this industry that much
Schuyler doesn’t come
from a long line of farm-
ers. He grew up south of
Buffalo, N.Y., and gradu-
ated from Syracuse Uni-
versity with a civil engi-
neering degree. He lived
in Northern California,
where he worked in the
medical marijuana indus-
try before marrying and
making his way to Ore-
gon’s CBD hemp industry.
They began in 2019
with 30 acres.
“There was such a sup-
ply glut, and it being our
first season we didn’t
have an established clien-
tele base,” Schuyler said.
“It was tough to make it
through that year, but we
They focus on the
smokable flower and ship
much of it to states and
countries where THC is
illegal. Hemp must have
less than 0.3% THC.
“CBD is for that
very slight calming,”
Schuyler said. “It’s
not like you’re getting
high but you can tell
that you smoked some-
thing and you just feel
a little bit better.”
He said that “if you
have a stressful job and
just want that little bit of
grounding effect, CBD is
where it’s at.”
All the hemp is
foot warehouse in Tan-
gent, Ore., where they
also have a small indoor
They produce between
500 and 1,000 pounds of
trimmed flower per acre,
which yields another
1,000 pounds of biomass
for extraction.
Last year they dou-
bled their planting, but
this year they are grow-
ing 45-50 acres.
“We do our harvesting
by hand and 60 acres was
just a little too much,”
Schuyler said.
“I don’t think any-
thing can really pre-
pare you for a hemp har-
vest — it’s just leaps and
bounds beyond any rec-
reational cannabis har-
vest I’ve ever done,”
Schuyler said. “It seems
to take forever, and hav-
ing 50 extra people buzz-
ing around just wears you
They plan to stay the
course, knowing their
future is uncertain.
“I think the hemp
industry will survive
until the federal govern-
ment legalizes straight-up
THC,” Schuyler said.
“Once that happens the
hemp industry is going
to have a lot tougher time
because anyone growing
weed can just throw in
some CBD products.
“At that point my days
as a hemp farmer might
be short-lived,” he said.
“Maybe I’ll be able to
replace my CBD plants
with THC, but I assume
there will be way more
regulation and more big-
name players like Canopy
Growth (which is) traded
on the stock exchange.”
“There are just sev-
eral large corporate enti-
ties coming out of rec-
reational markets in
Canada, California and
Colorado with estab-
and it would be tough to
catch up.”
BONANZA, Ore. — With the thou-
sands of products hemp fiber can make,
Pat and Bob Clickener of Rock Bottom
Ranch’s Bonanza Hemp were hopeful
about the crop’s possibilities when they
started growing it in 2016.
They were given some seed for a
1-acre test field, one of the first 70 Ore-
gon growers to plant hemp.
At that time CBD was not in the mix
and few knew anything about it.
“The hemp grew beautifully here in
high desert country and the second year
we figured if we did at least 10 acres
we should be able to find somebody to
use it,” Pat Clickener said.
“As an architect, I’m familiar with
its possibilities in the building industry
alone,” she said. “I thought in a cou-
ple years I’d be doing hempcrete in the
garage and selling pavers but I never
got that far because we haven’t been
able to make any money at all.”
They continued to hope for a market
in 2018, planting seed they produced
the previous year, but without any mar-
ket and fiber’s limited shelf life they
had to till it under.
“We just didn’t take into account the
money and time it takes to develop the
manufacturing part,” Clickener said.
“Canada does really well with fiber,”
she said. “The country got behind it
and helped farmers convert their exist-
ing equipment and have developed a
relatively large market.
“Kentucky puts more money into
fiber than many other states trying to
find a market for the farmers who grew
tobacco all those years.”
By 2019 CBD had taken the spot-
light, and the Clickeners put in 12
Bonanza Hemp
Pat Clickener of Bonanza Hemp checks for male plants in their CBD hemp
field. She and her husband, Bob, started growing fiber in 2016 before CBD
was on people’s radar.
acres. Unfortunately, by then every-
body was doing it, too.
“We lost money two years a row...,”
Clickener said. “What really fouled us
up was buying several pieces of equip-
ment as we needed them; we became
cash poor.”
Last year they planted a cautious
8% of the year before and are selling
it — slowly.
“We’ve finally hit on something
we’re starting to sell but the CBD mar-
ket is still unstable,” she said.
They’ve also started renting out
their house through Airbnb to increase
cash flow.
“It’s because of Airbnb and being
willing to move into our motorhome
when we have guests that we have
enough cash to pay our utilities and
stuff,” she said.
“You see a whole lot of land for sale
now because people lost their shirts,”
she said. “In order to get investors
together you must promise them some-
thing, which is usually the farm.”
This year the family will grow three
acres of CBD hemp and 10 acres of the
fiber seed they produced in 2016.
However, it will also complicate
things. The crops require different irri-
gation configurations, and all the fiber
plants must be out of the ground before
the CBD plants start flowering.
“The processing and end-product
manufacturing is just lacking in this
country and if we don’t get on top of
it the only people growing it will be
those with out-of-country markets, and
that’s not going to be the small farmer,”
Clickener said.
“We have this land because Bob’s
family lived an agricultural life and
we’re trying to take the gift his parents
gave us and make it into something our
kids can benefit from and continue.”
Backup plan: Farmer produces CBD topicals
For the Capital Press
QUINCY, Wash. — In early 2020,
Mitchell Karstetter’s new side business
was just beginning to pick up steam.
The Quincy, Wash., farmer and
his family had been growing hemp
on about 40 acres for the past year,
looking to capitalize on the growing
demand for CBD products with a ven-
ture called Columbia Basin Hemp. But
then the pandemic hit, and the Kart-
stetters had to start looking at backup
plans for their stalled inventory.
“COVID just shut down the retail
side of the industry because people
weren’t out and about anymore, see-
ing your products in the stores,” said
Karstetter, who also owns cattle and
grows apples and row crops. “The price
of hemp also crashed almost overnight,
so we were forced to re-evaluate our
business plan.”
Columbia Basin Hemp gradually
became Columbia Naturals, which
combines processed hemp with ingre-
dients such as arnica and helichrysum
to produce a specialty line of topicals.
The company’s three signature
products are infused with CBD oils to
relieve pain and inflammation. River
Plunge features menthol crystals, euca-
lyptus and spearmint, creating a numb-
ing sensation like BioFreeze; Farm-
er’s Helper combines menthol crystals
with a warming oil called capsicum;
and Lavender Breeze is a gentle gel
made with fresh lavender that is used
to moisturize and relax muscles.
Karstetter’s wife, Katie — a for-
mer sales representative — took on
the topicals side of the business and
has helped the family make something
positive out of a difficult situation.
“We needed to develop an end-prod-
uct that we could package and sell in
retail stores and online, because the
Columbia Naturals
Columbia Naturals products.
hemp didn’t end up being the cash crop
we had hoped it would be,” he said.
“We have come up with a really good
product at a really good price. But right
now, we’re just trying to break into the
market wherever we can.”
Getting the Columbia Naturals
name out there has been even more of
a challenge, he added, because federal
law prohibits companies from advertis-
ing “CBDs.” Companies such as Ama-
zon, Google and Facebook don’t per-
mit ads that use that moniker, even
though CBD products contain less than
0.03% THC, the hallucinogenic com-
pound found in the cannabis plant.
Another regulation slowing the pro-
cess is that CBD products cannot be
sold in Washington state’s licensed
Initiative 502 marijuana retail stores,
unless they are also a licensed I-502
company. The only places Colum-
bia Naturals can sell its healing topi-
cals are online at columbianaturals.
com, in retail stores and through word
of mouth.
“Everyone who uses the lotion abso-
lutely loves it, but it’s been hard getting
any traction over the past year since we
can’t advertise online,” Karstetter said.
“But we’re expecting things to pick up
the rest of the year. Stores just aren’t
taking many new products right now.”
With all of the uncertainty of the
past year, the family feels fortunate
that it has been able to fall back on
other revenue streams, such as apples
and cattle. Karstetter said he knows
a lot of farmers who never saw their
hemp-growing plans materialize. But
he’s also optimistic about a market
“A lot of people were thinking this
could be a big money-making opportu-
nity, and the past year hasn’t turned out
that way,” he said. “I feel bad for some
of the local guys who took a chance,
but I think things will rebound. There’s
a huge opportunity that’s right there
waiting, so once we get through this
time, I think it will be an entirely dif-
ferent story.”
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