Jesse Erickson harvests and packages greens for delivery on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Jesse Erickson harvests and packages greens for delivery on Thursday, Oct. 10.
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Jesse Erickson likes to imagine being able to one day watch a 70-millimeter print of “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Cinerama while crunching on his Tight 5 Farm microgreens.

A sci-fi cinephile, Erickson actually credits the show, The Expanse, and its astro botanist character, for inspiring him to give small-scale urban farming a shot. He sees agricultural pods in urban settings as the future, replacing rural farmland as sustainability becomes ever more crucial.

It started out more than a year ago as a proof-of-concept project in the spare room of his Pioneer Square apartment, and grew from there.

“We were just talking about how cool it would be to have a funky little astronaut farm,” Erickson said.

Following Tight 5’s success at Seattle farmers markets, Erickson and his partners, Leah Chung and Zaq Wiedmann, went looking for a commercial space that would sustain the business into the future.

“We were space hunting for months and months and months once we got to the point that we found our proof of concept was working,” Erickson said.

It was hard to find a property owner who was open to the concept of an urban hydroponic vertical farm for producing sprouts, microgreens and herbs, but Erickson said the commercial space they found in Ballard was worth the wait.

Tight 5 Farm moved into its new location across from Stoup Brewing about a month ago, and now has the space to grow at a scale that keeps up with demand at farmers markets, and from restaurants and friends, including one in Capitol Hill who runs a produce subscription service.

Tight 5 got its start at the Capitol Hill Farmers Market, and will be selling at the Magnolia Farmers Market until its season ends on Oct. 26. It was one of the new vendors in Magnolia that Seattle Farmers Markets manager Molly Burke was excited to introduce to the neighborhood.

“She’s such a sweetheart,” Erickson said. “She’s been so supportive of us ever since we started.”

Chung and Wiedmann, who tied the knot in June, live in Magnolia, but all three business partners take turns delivering their greens to the market there. Chung was cleaning the husks off of a batch of sunflower sprouts when Queen Anne News visited the urban farm. She said she eats them every morning.

“You can’t get tired of them,” she said. “They’re just that bright, nutty flavor that you add to everything.”

 

The Ballard farm is actually on the ground floor of a house that was raised an additional floor. Their landlords live above them, and a third section of the structure will eventually become Tight 5’s new grow room.

The current grow room is a large tent, with a partitioned dark corner where the seeds get their start. Most of the greens take about a week to grow and harvest, and are packaged just before delivery.

“Some of the crops take a little shorter, some take a little longer, so it’s kind of a balancing act,” Erickson said.

The plants only require water and light, and grow out of a bed of coconut fiber that is then recycled after each harvest.

“We harvest them before they need the soil, because they have no soil to take from,” Erickson said.

A dehumidifier also recycles water used in the growing process.

All of the greens are packed to 100 grams inside compostable containers, which sell at market for $5. Erickson said he wants to price the greens so customers are using them as the base of a salad rather than a garnish.

“That price point, we think, makes it a little more approachable,” he said.

Not only is Tight 5’s bigger Ballard location ideal for farming the greens, it is also ideally situated around the businesses it relies on.

The GrowGeneration hydroponics shop, which has been supplying Tight 5 from the start, is around the corner, and Rad Power Bikes is right across the street should their e-bikes need servicing.

Those e-bikes are how Tight 5 Farm gets greens to market, and the weekends are the busiest time, with Magnolia on Saturday and Capitol Hill on Sunday.

“We get a little bit of help from these beefy torque motors,” Erickson said.

The farm is also ideally located near the Burke-Gilman Trail, he said, making it easier to navigate the city.

Once the Magnolia Farmers Market ends later this month, Tight 5 Farm will be looking for a new Saturday market for the winter. The University District is one option. Ballard is the big show, however, there is a long wait list and microgreen vendors at that market already. Erickson said he plans to start the application process soon.

While Erickson is a fan of sci-fi, the name of the farm is actually a nod to the tight-five comedy set, where a comedian has to deliver the best show possible, with reliable jokes and perfect timing. Tight 5 Farm is always trying to improve its operation, reduce waste and increase efficiency, he said.

“That’s kind of our whole philosophy wrapped up into the name,” Erickson said.