LED lights shine down upon many soil-filled trays and their occupants for 18 hours a day. These trays -- some with greens poking above the soil and others with developing seeds -- fill racks that border a 250-square-foot converted garage.
Within days to weeks, they grow into small but familiar vegetables and herbs: micro cilantro, micro arugula, micro radish and more.
Two years ago, this indoor production started with just a $300 budget for seeds, soil and equipment.
But with proper tending, Katie Lee and Chris Ybarra -- co-owners of MicroDreams in Livermore -- grew their dream from hobby to business with ideals of human connection and quality in mind.
MicroDreams has bloomed into a business that produces and supplies microgreens of laudable freshness to local businesses and households. Owning the company has brought challenges, but Lee and Ybarra have overcome through collaboration and anticipate MicroDreams’ further expansion, they told Livermore Vine.
In addition to the financial viability of growing at home, Lee said the two chose Livermore as a place to take root since, “Wanting to serve our community first and branch out later as we’re able to.”
Sales started at Livermore’s Farmer’s Market, which connected them to their mission of growing relationships with the community over fresh greens.
While MicroDreams is no longer selling at the market, they sell direct-to-consumer and supply microgreens to local eateries like Livermore’s Sons of Liberty Alehouse, Wingen Bakery and The Press, which also has a location in Pleasanton.
Even with the increased scale of production, the business has carried on its initial commitment to providing quality, locally grown greens to the public. They usually deliver microgreens within 24 hours of cultivation.
“Our thing has always been quality. If something isn’t up to what we would say is our good standard, then we will not give it to our customers,” Lee said.
Trevor Hubbard, chef at Sons of Liberty in Livermore and San Leandro, partnered with MicroDreams, in part, because he said their greens stay fresh longer than those from other suppliers.
“It was just pretty evident from the beginning that they were super fresh. That alone was reason for me to start using it,” Hubbard said of MicroDream’s microgreens.
With the success of their budding business, Lee and Ybarra also help each other remain positive in the face of challenges.
“There’s burnout from being at a regular job and having to do your other job,” Lee said. “The last year and a half has been a lot of learning, a lot of finding middle ground and just remember[ing] that we really enjoy doing it. So we’re trying not to let the rest of it get in the way of the fun we’re having. But it is not for the faint of heart.”
The couple's plans for the future of MicroDreams include acquiring a commercial growing space, increasing their presence at Livermore restaurants and maybe even entering local grocery stores.
All the while, Lee and Ybarra plan to tend MicroDreams in rhythm with their original intentions.
"We had a bunch of different ideas about a business that we could start and our main theme was something that we could give to people that would enrich their lives -- be of a benefit to them -- not just something to sell," Lee said.
More information about MicroDreams is available at https://www.microdreamsnorcal.com/.