When SPARC CEO Erich Pearson saw the local Hispanic community in the Sonoma Valley suffering from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, he leveraged the company’s relationship with La Luz, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to the local Latinx community, to hire out-of-work farmers for SPARC’s outdoor cultivation operation in Glen Ellen, Calif.
“We’ve been friends with La Luz for a while,” Pearson told Cannabis Business Times. “We just reached out to them and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got an addition to our farm this year, and [we know] you’ve got some folks that are out of work.'”
SPARC, a vertically integrated cannabis operator, has a few acres of outdoor cannabis cultivation space in Glen Ellen, with use permits pending for greenhouses and a nursery. The company also operates a processing facility co-located on the farm in Glen Ellen, as well as a second processing facility at its corporate headquarters in Santa Rosa. In addition, SPARC runs five dispensaries—three in San Francisco and two in Sonoma County—with the first stores open since 2007.
The company has supported La Luz’s charitable efforts in the past, particularly during the fall season, when SPARC purchased tickets for families to attend Halloween events at local farms.
Much of the local Latinx community has been laid off due to the shuttering of the restaurant industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pearson said. “There are a lot of people who work in kitchens who are out of work. A lot are from the ag industry [or] the grape industry.”
This inspired SPARC to work with La Luz to hire 10 workers for its cultivation operation in Glen Ellen.
“I think we’ve seen a disproportionate disruption in their community, … so it’s nice to be able to reach into that community and help out,” Pearson said. “It makes a big impact if you can hire 12 or 15 folks.”
The new hires are currently being trained and integrated into the SPARC team in collaboration with La Luz, and Pearson anticipates bringing on more displaced workers in the fall to help process this year’s harvest.
“Anybody who’s out of work deserves a job,” he said. “I think this community in particular, the immigrant community, has had it worse off through COVID, [and] those are our neighbors. Those are our community members."