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To say Nicole Fuchs is energetic is to impart an understatement.
Four months after taking over as public relations manager for a local hemp and CBD venture, Fuchs is hands-on in every aspect of the operation, and she bounces around the many rooms and areas of the facility’s main warehouse/storefront making sure that everything is rolling along just so.
In one of the rooms she regularly visits, “rolling along” is quite literally the business of the day. Three young men spend their workdays in the room rolling up to 10,000 CBD “joints” per day. The completed products are sealed into individual vacuum tubes and placed for sale at Natural ReLeaf storefronts and retail distributors in Las Cruces and throughout the United States.
Because Natural ReLeaf deals in hemp products, the warehouse area reeks of the distinct and acrid odor of cannabis. The pungent odor permeates the place.
In one corner of the warehouse is a specialized hemp-cleaning machine that processes the hemp and removes stems and leaves from the flower buds. That area is sealed off with plastic to keep the fine dust that the process creates from settling into the rest of the packaging, rolling, warehousing and retail spaces.
“Our cleaning machine is called the Centurion Pro Gladiator Wet and Dry Cannabis Bud Trimming Machine,” she said, adding that the unit came with a price tag of $14,000. “It enables us to clean large amounts of flower for sale within and outside the state.”
In another room – a room featuring climate control and carefully timed artificial sunlight – reside the “mother plants” that support Natural ReLeaf’s ongoing cultivation efforts.
In another sealed-off area of the warehouse is a $150,000 canning and labeling apparatus that seals finished products into vacuum-sealed tins, in which oxygen is replaced by nitrogen gas to ensure freshness upon opening.
A few miles south of Las Cruces, Natural ReLeaf operates a 200-acre hemp farm located on the site of a former egg-production facility. The farm is where CBD hemp is grown for flower and extracts. In cultivation since June of 2019, the farm features both greenhouses and field production with more than 100,000 plants representing more than 10 distinct strains of hemp under cultivation at any given time.
The 2019 crop yield was estimated at about 10,000 pounds. Planning for an even larger spring planting already is underway.
Natural ReLeaf’s manufacturing center and main dispensary is located at 3497 Bataan Memorial West in Las Cruces. It is the former location of Dal Tile, and its sports an enormous climate-controlled space for product processing, labeling, oil extraction, the rolling room, the mother-plant chamber and storage.
Additional retail operations operate out of a storefront at 200 S. Solano Dr., as well as various special events and farmer’s markets throughout the area.
The Bataan Memorial space is expected to open to the public this month, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is scheduled to be there for the event, as well as to make some announcements regarding the hemp industry statewide.
Fuchs is quick to point out that although Natural ReLeaf almost certainly has one of the largest growing and processing presences in Doña Ana County, she has a healthy dose of competition in the area, as well as statewide.
“Hemp is taking off,” she said. Last year was the first year it was legal to cultivate the plant, so a lot of growers, including us, learned a lot along the way. We like the way we’re positioned, but we are excited about the competitive nature, comradery and collaboration of this emerging industry in New Mexico.”
She said that in addition to plants cultivated at the Berino farm, Natural ReLeaf works with a handful of other, smaller growers and provides clones and seeds for both large- and small-scale farms.
The company’s goal, she said, is to consistently offer quality hemp products and hemp manufacturing services, including cleaning, processing, canning and labeling.
“Our team of conscience cultivators carefully tend to our hemp plants, which ultimately become the best handmade products for your mind and body,” Fuchs said. “Natural ReLeaf products are made with our own locally grown hemp and select ingredients. The first products Natural ReLeaf will begin to produce and sell at the Natural ReLeaf Dispensary include canned CBD flower, loose CBD flower, pre-rolls and both CBD oils and topicals.”
Fuchs said she believes the Natural ReLeaf farm and manufacturing center collectively have the potential to make significant impacts on the local economy, job market and hemp industry.
“One of our select ingredients is love. We know it's corny, but it's just so true,” she said. “The level of passion our entire team has for [the product line] is something that all businesses should strive for.
“Natural ReLeaf’s hemp is grown for flower, extract and beyond, making us is a dynamic and unique business in the hemp industry, because our plants are tended to by us, from seed to shelf,” she said.
The “seed to shelf” business model, Fuchs said, allows Natural ReLeaf to partner with other retailers in the region to provide quality products at competitive price points.
Another key player in the Natural ReLeaf family is Lindsey Keller, who serves as the company’s cultivation manager. Both Fuchs and Keller hold bachelors and masters degrees from NMSU, and both work daily in multiple capacities within the company.