Scott Sparks Connects Vermonters to Local Cannabis – and Evidence-Based Education From UVM PACE
Brattleboro-based Scott Sparks hadn’t been much of an entrepreneur since the mid-80s, back when he ran a small bed and breakfast in Maine. In the intervening decades, he worked a mix of food service and sales management roles at large organizations. In short, he had been working for someone else for a very long time.
And it got frustrating. By 2017, he had had enough. Almost on a whim, he set his sights on cannabis. Wouldn’t it be cool to open a shop – to make the leap into something totally new?
While the idea stuck with him, he didn’t quite know how to get his bearings in the complex world of cannabis until he flew himself out to the NoCo Hemp Expo in Colorado Springs. “I was blown away,” he recalls. “I didn’t know if it would be just a bunch of stoners – but no. There were all kinds of businesspeople there doing really impressive things.”
“I was blown away,” he recalls. “I didn’t know if it would be just a bunch of stoners – but no. There were all kinds of businesspeople there doing really impressive things.”
Back in Vermont and inspired, Scott immediately connected with Heady Vermont, a cannabis media company and news connection. He showed up to one of their events, talked to as many people as he could, and his fast track into cannabis entrepreneurship “snowballed from there,” he says. His first shop, Vermont Hempicurean, opened in the spring of 2018, exactly one year after his eye-opening trip to Colorado.
Balancing Cannabis Coursework from UVM and Multiple Booming Businesses
Fast forward to 2022, and Scott was in expansion mode. He saw a niche for soil, nutrients, and lights for the cannabis grower, and was ready to set up shop(s) in the perfect location – a big red barn in West Brattleboro. “It’s quintessential Vermont,” he says.
It was a hectic time – especially since Scott heard about a UVM scholarship program called Upskill Vermont while preparing for opening day. When he learned that he could enroll in the Cannabis Science and Medicine and Cannabis Plant Biology Certificates at The University of Vermont through a scholarship program, he knew he had to make it work.
Until that point, Scott’s cannabis knowledge had been accumulated by internet research and long conversations with his vendors, so the prospect of immersing himself in a set, science-based cannabis curriculum taught by UVM cannabis and pharmacological faculty was quite appealing.
“I was extremely busy,” he says, “But I was able to take both classes and open the business – I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I firmly believe there’s always something new to learn. Even though I’ve been in cannabis in one way or another almost all of my life, I’ve learned a ton of new stuff recently, especially since the science of cannabis has exploded over the past few years as the stigma has been removed in some ways.”
Even with a marked increase in credible cannabis information available to consumers, Scott has observed a significant knowledge gap – and views his businesses as educational spaces. “A lot of people have what they might not even know to be very limited information about cannabis science. It may be as limited as indica or sativa, or what grows indoors or outdoors. These are all minor things, in the end,” he explains.
With his two UVM cannabis professional certificates under his belt, Scott feels prepared to connect with customers on a deeper level about their cannabis interests and purchases. And that feels important to him – especially since cannabis has been shrouded in a long history of criminalization, racism, and misinformation, he says.
With his two UVM cannabis professional certificates under his belt, Scott feels prepared to connect with customers on a deeper level about their cannabis interests and purchases.
Indeed, Scott’s entrepreneurial experiment has blossomed into a veritable cannabis outpost since its early days. His hope for the future is that he’ll one day open a cannabis cafe once the legal climate catches up with today’s thriving cannabis culture. In the meantime, he has the 2022 additions to his business portfolio, Vermont Grow Barn and Vermont Bud Barn, to keep him busy.
In the coming months, In the Weeds, a grow space for cannabis he’ll sell at Vermont Bud Barn, will be up and running as well. In the spirit of connecting consumers to unbiased cannabis education, Scott is currently brainstorming a webcam system that will give consumers real-time visibility into the In the Weeds harvest so they can follow his plants from seed to shelf.
This is a sponsored post by The University of Vermont Professional and Continuing Education (PACE).