Brand Building Brings Family Healing at Reunion
The Simonsen family found healing and reconnection on their hemp farm in rural Oregon. Together, they are building a brand guided by family, science, and spirit.
Reunion is a brand that brought a family back together. Reuniting on their small hemp farm in rural Oregon after years apart, Dr. John Simonsen and his children, Eve and Rob Simonsen, began building a family business during the pandemic. “It's changed everything for me,” Eve Simonsen said, speaking with me shortly before the brand’s official launch in December.
“We went from hardly having a relationship to having the most nurturing, beautiful, expansive relationship I could imagine,” she told me. “It's really the most beautiful thing that I think I've ever experienced in my life.”
The brand’s debut lineup features certified organic CBD tinctures for sleep, focus, and general health, but Reunion eschews definition as simply a cannabis company. Guided by principles of family, science, and spirit, it has been a vehicle for healing and reconnection for the Simonsens.
Though it opened its digital doors as a direct-to-consumer brand just last month, the Reunion story begins three decades ago. John Simonsen is a Professor of Wood Science and Engineering at Oregon State University, where he has published groundbreaking work on cellulose nanocrystals and nanocomposites, compression molded biocomposites, and more. Following his diagnosis with cancer in 1993, however, he struck out in another direction, seeking alternative modes for hope and healing. “I discovered shamanism,” he explained. “It really worked for me. I was called to it.” Spiritual guidance has been important to John Simonsen ever since. “The spirits are good teachers,” he said.
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In 2012, he co-created the first accredited college course on industrial hemp in the United States. “It's still ongoing. Still popular,” he told me. Six years later, John Simonsen recounted, he was guided by spirits to the land that would become his farm and the eventual taproot for Reunion.
“We moved to the country, and I was looking for a place to buy,” he said. “When I saw this place, I heard a voice that said: Welcome home, John.”
“I didn't know what to make of that,” John Simonsen joked. He made a hemp farm.
It's about the plants. It's about the organisms, the plants, and the fungi. We are stewards of the land and supporters of the growth of the plants. The plants are the ones that are on a mission.
In 2019, “the hemp market was super red hot,” he said. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 had legalized production of industrial hemp nationwide, and by mid-2019, “47 States had passed legislation to allow some form of hemp production,” according to the USDA. Oregon was one of the hottest states for hemp. Thousands of acres entered production not long after legalization.
“I started playing around and grew some plants indoors,” John Simonsen explained. “I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't really know where I was going.”
When the pandemic struck in 2020, Eve and Rob Simonsen came home to the farm in Oregon. “My dad had the farm up and running when COVID hit, and there was a lot of individual healing between my brother, my dad, and me,” Eve Simonsen said. “That was the first time in three years that we had seen each other or come together as a family, and it was on the farm.”
Reunion began to take shape. Grounded in John Simonsen’s chemistry career and spiritual awakening as well as the Simonsen family’s homecoming, a family business was born.
“The more we started to reconnect as a family, the more we saw how our story affected other people,” Eve Simonsen told me. “It just so happened that the hemp plant played a central role.”
Today, the reunited Simonsens each have a role to play as the brand navigates the early stages of growth. “Dad is heading up the science side of things and farming,” Eve Simonsen explained. She serves as Reunion’s CEO, while Rob Simonsen handles creative relationships and finance as CFO.
Like other brands in the cannabis industry, Reunion’s growth plan requires working around restrictions on digital advertising and marketing campaigns. A more personal approach is not just necessary, but a perfect fit for the brand. “The main intention of our brand is to inspire reunions with other people,” Eve Simonsen said. “We have a lot of big visions for how we will move forward. One way is very much in bringing people onto the farm, being about community, and bringing people together to be a part of what we’re doing. That’s one element of growth.”
Another element is an emphasis on efficacy and safety. All the brands I’ve spoken to understand the importance of consumer trust for continued growth, and every founder takes pride in ensuring the quality and safety of their products. The Simonsens are no different. “We're certified organic” Eve Simonsen told me, proudly. “We received our certification in 2022, because we're on a path to being one hundred percent seed to bottle.”
On the farm, John Simonsen employs his decades of chemistry expertise to ensure Reunion’s products are crafted with care, and each Reunion product is blessed in a shamanic ceremony before being sold. “It's about the plants. It's about the organisms, the plants, and the fungi,” he said. “We are stewards of the land and supporters of the growth of the plants. The plants are the ones that are on a mission.”
“My dad has done an incredible job on the farming end and creating innovative systems for how our hemp is grown,” Eve Simonsen told me. “He hand-makes microbial solution and puts it in the soil with the plants. He talks to the plants. He sings to the plants. There's a lot more that he's not saying that goes into how things are being grown.”
Though Reunion’s next chapter has yet to be written, the brand has already been a transformative success for the Simonsen family. The company’s products are attracting initial positive reviews, and John, Eve, and Rob Simonsen are excited for the future of building a niche brand and family legacy together, reunited.
“As far as the future,” Eve Simonsen mused at the end of our interview, “I have two kids who love being on the farm, who spend time in the fields. To me, if there's to be a legacy, it's to be able to continue to have this in our family for generations to come.”