Vermont Kind is a family business based in the Northeast Kingdom.
Vermont Kind is a family business based in the Northeast Kingdom. Photo provided.

By Chris Mays, Vermont Country Magazine.

Scott Sparks, owner of Vermont Bud Barn and Vermont Hempicurean, has built many long and strong relationships through his approximately seven years involved in the Vermont hemp and cannabis community. Around April 2017, he attended his first Heady Vermont meeting in Burlington, where he counted about 25 people. He remembers a three-person panel discussing the opening of the hemp market in Vermont led by the media company’s founder Monica Donovan. 

“I met others there that were just dipping their toes in the water to see what we could create”

Scott Spark (Vermont Bud Barn, Vermont Grow Barn, and Vermont Hempicurean)

Counting himself as the second member of Heady Vermont just behind Donovan. “I continued to attend any meeting or event I could to learn as much as possible about how I could open a retail and online store selling Vermont hemp products.”

Scott Smith, of Brattleboro, smells some of the cannabis that was on display at the Bud Barn during its opening day in October 2022. Bud Barn was the first retail cannabis store in Southern Vermont. Vermont Country file photo. 

Sparks ended up connecting with his lawyer Tim Fair, who was just starting a hemp-centered practice on the side of his regular law practice, which eventually became Vermont Cannabis Solutions. Sparks was his first client to sign on to the new venture. 

At the first Vermont Hemp Show, Sparks met Will Read, who had just started Cannaplanners. Sparks signed up for Read to create his logo and website, becoming his first cannabis client. 

At the show, Sparks also met Donovan’s new partner Eli Harrington. Harrington “became a key link in the chain as he was very involved in political advocacy and event promotion,” said Sparks, who attended many meetings in the Vermont Statehouse and connected with local lawmakers to advocate for his point of view.

“Although Monica is no longer running Heady Vermont, I am still using Tim Fair and Will Read, and I buy cannabis products from Eli and support his cannabis events,” Sparks said. “I met growers and producers of hemp products at the Vermont Hemp Show and started networking on a more granular level.”

Some of his early friends are still part of his business today. Others have dropped out but remain in Sparks’ life through hemp or cannabis products or both.

“I consider many of these people friends as well as business partners,” Sparks said. “We went through a lot together and if you weren’t there, it is hard to explain. There were many hills to climb, barriers to break, and lessons to learn. Lots of hardship and heartache along the way. It has been great to rely on these people and others as we walked the tightrope together.”

Scott Sparks, owner of Vermont Bud Barn, Vermont Grow Barn, and Vermont Hempicurean. Provided photo.

Sparks noted there are haters — from the “Just Say No” crowd to people who chose not to enter the legal cannabis industry to newcomers who want to be what he called “the arbiters of who is good and bad.”

“We are family, working and playing together”

Like Sparks, Barton-based Kingdom Kind co-owner Karen Devereux and her family made lasting relationships with other growers and stores during what she called “the hemp years” when they ran Northeast Kingdom Hemp. 

“Loyalty is really important to us, so we have always prioritized working with those who have been loyal to us over the years.”

Karen Devereux (NEK Kingdom Kind and NEK Vermont Kind)

“That doesn’t mean that we aren’t always looking for new people to partner with. It just means we are fortunate to have some established relationships, and we work hard to keep those strong, while looking for new partners that we can trust.”

Devereux said her family has met “a ton of awesome people in the industry, many of whom really want the industry to thrive for all of us.”

Part of the Manchester-based Green Mountain Cannabis Works’ business strategy involves collaborations and partnerships

Tanner Conley, budtender at Green Mountain Cannabis Works in Manchester. Photo provided by Green Mountain Cannabis Works.

When they opened their doors in September 2023, Green Mountain Cannabis Works became the first recreational cannabis dispensary in the town of Manchester. Since opening, they have taken steps to work alongside other local businesses, such as working with local hotels to provide mutually beneficial promotions. The intention is to create a network that enhances the overall experience for tourists visiting the community. 

Reflecting on a year in business, Ratu’s Cannabis Supply in Wilmington expressed gratitude for new friendships. 

“We have met so many amazing cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and fellow business owners who we now consider friends!” the store posted via Instagram, thanking the local community and employees. “We also thank our customers who have become like family! Thank you for growing with us, for trusting our visions and believing in us.”

Ratu’s added, “What started from a seed, now grows not just a plant, but a symbiotic relationship from the grower to the consumer that’s filled with love, gratitude, respect, honor and commitment to a better future.”

In a photo posted on social media pages, Jennifer Betit-Engel and Christian Engel of Ratu’s Cannabis Supply celebrate approval of their license to run a cannabis dispensary in 2022. Provided photo. 


Chris Mays is a reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer. He plays guitar in three groups and has a Yorkie named Lemon, who can be followed on Instagram at @lemon_the_yorkie. He enjoys spending time in the mountains.

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

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