By Pete Danko – Staff Reporter, Portland Business Journal
Seth and Eric Crawford, the brothers behind Oregon CBD, are responding to the devastation of the coronavirus by planning to grow a really big garden this year.
No, it's not their solution to the crisis. But it's a move that captures their dedication to direct action, self-sufficiency and community.
“We normally do one where all of our employees contribute and everybody can take food home,” Seth said. “And, you know, we're pretty good farmers, producing a lot more food than we can eat. So we donate the extra to the local food bank.
“But I think we're going to expand that dramatically this year. If we're able to do that and help the community out, that gives us the opportunity to have a little bit of control in a situation that seems completely uncontrollable.”
Uncontrollable as in, in a matter of days this spring, a substantial portion of Oregon CBD’s 2020 revenue vanished.
“A few of our largest clients from previous years basically canceled their orders,” Seth said. “It was about $30 million worth of sales.”
Founded in 2015, Oregon CBD develops and sells seeds that farmers use to grow hemp for CBD and other emerging cannabinoids.
The company, based in Independence, in the heart of the Willamette Valley, sold around $50 million worth of seeds in 2019.
The brothers were driven by a love for the plant and the medicine they might coax from it. They also believed they needed to carve a solid position to protect themselves from the inevitable arrival of giant agribusinesses.
So they plowed profits into new employees, analytical equipment and new sealed greenhouses.
“It just kind of makes sense to focus on what we've got, and what we have is enough to produce what we need,” Crawford said.
So instead of doing 60 acres of research and development trials, they’ll do 10.
“It's enough for us to get new and exciting varieties out for the next year,” Crawford said. “We'll be able to get good data. It just means that we're going to have to do it smaller and a little bit more carefully.”
But even as they approach business investments more conservatively, they’ll stretch to protect people.
On March 16, a week before Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order, employees were sent home, and only a scattering have been coming in since then, alternating, as safety protocols allow. Still, all 41 are receiving full-time wages and benefits.
“That’s just something we feel like we didn’t have any choice on,” Crawford said in an April 10 interview. “We don’t know if we're going to get any help, but it's a risk we have to take.”
A few days later, good news arrived: a Paycheck Protection Plan loan through Northwest Community Credit Union that will safeguard those employees through June.
41 = No. of Oregon CBD employees backstopped through June 30 by a PPP loan
50,000 = No. of acres of Oregon CBD varieties grown throughout every hemp legal state in the US since 2015
60 = Acres Oregon CBD planned for R&D trials pre-COVID-19
10 = Acres on which Oregon CBD will conduct R&D trials
Originally published in the Portland Business Journal - https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2020/04/23/middle-market-2020-why-oregon-cbd-plowed-profits.html?b=1587672491%5E21656143