Farm & Market Opening in Denver's RiNo Neighborhood | Westword

RiNo's Newest Restaurant, Opening This Weekend, Is a Farm, Market and Restaurant Under One Roof

Farm & Market is a vertical farm, restaurant and market combo that's reimagining access to fresh produce.
You can see Farm and Market's 1,100 vertical hydroponic towers from its eatery.
You can see Farm and Market's 1,100 vertical hydroponic towers from its eatery. Farm and Market
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Orange thyme, Black Magic kale, Pomegranate Crunch romaine: These aren't your typical grocery store herbs and greens. "My favorite is Mrs. Burns's basil," says Davis Breedlove. "It smells and tastes like Froot Loops."

All of these and much more are growing inside 2401 Larimer Street, a space set to celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, September 16, as Farm & Market, a vertical farm, restaurant and market combo that's reimagining access to fresh produce. "We took three of the hardest industries and put them in one building," Breedlove adds. "The whole premise is to nourish folks with our high-quality food."

While another urban indoor farm, Altius, is just two blocks away, it primarily sells to restaurants and markets and isn't open to the public for shopping. "It's exciting but also nerve-racking," Breedlove says of opening his first venture of this kind.

Farm & Market is equipped with 1,100 vertical hydroponic towers, all of which can be seen from the dining and shopping portion of the space through a glass wall. "We care deeply about doing things right," Breedlove says. "Transparency is the biggest thing for us. I greatly believe in truthfulness, just being real. And I'm not a marketer. So I figured, what would be a better way to show the truth of what we're doing here? And it keeps us in check, too."
click to enlarge a man in a black t-shirt standing in front of a glass wall
Founder Davis Breedlove has been fascinated by plants since childhood.
Molly Martin
Those looking for a nourishing meal will be able to order from the fast-casual eatery inside the space, with a menu designed by Breedlove's brother, Austin, and chef Chase Meneely, who formerly worked at Uchi. Options include four salads made with greens grown on site, with add-ons like grains and "the highest-quality sustainably sourced salmon and chicken," Breedlove says. Two soups are on offer as well: The Emerald Queen, which is a green bisque made entirely from the farm's produce, and a miso chickpea noodle soup.

The market includes a pass-through refrigerator directly connected to the farm, "so farmers don't have to leave," Breedlove explains. "And it also reduces the possibility of contamination." The setup will give guests access to a wide variety of lettuce, arugula, kale, microgreens, Swiss chard, watercress and more. "The first step is leafy greens," Breedlove says. "We've been optimizing yields and getting better every single day. ... The next thing we'll do will be fruiting crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. Maybe berries. I love berries. Hopefully, one day it's a full produce section of the best local produce you can get."

Herb towers and trays of microgreens will be taken out of the farm every morning and displayed behind one of the checkout stations to be harvested on demand, "like a butcher shop for herbs," Breedlove says. "We want to bring the most nutritious and highest quality to our neighbors." That's how he refers to customers: as neighbors.

The market will also be stocked with a large assortment of Colorado-made beverages, cheeses from a local supplier, bread from Hearth, and options made in-house, like soups, salad dressings, croutons and more. "Anything that really complements the produce," Breedlove notes.
click to enlarge the interior of a building with a fast casual restaurant counter
Farm & Market will sell greens and herbs grown on site and serve a menu of healthy salads and bowls.
Molly Martin
The team running the operation includes twelve employees on the restaurant side, six on the farm and four in the market.

The idea has been three years in the making, but Breedlove's passion for flora goes back much further. "I've always loved plants. Ever since I was a kid, I was digging up my parents' backyard, planting things," he recalls. He and his brother were both born in the Mile High City, but when he was seven years old, his parents decided to move the family to Austin, Texas. "Ever since then, we've been trying to get back to Denver. We love it here," Breedlove says.

After getting a degree in business administration from the University of Southern California, though, his first job took him to Salt Lake City. "I learned to code there," he says of the role, which was part data engineer, part database architect and part business operations. "That was my career, and I was good at it, but I just love plants. ... I always found that whether it was in my career or just gardening, I found the most satisfaction helping people."

With his home garden, "I didn't eat most of the things I grew," he says. "I'd bring it into the office and give it to neighbors, and just seeing their smiles, it's wonderful. So I always wanted to do something that was more than myself. And I wanted to help folks."

A year after his brother finally returned to Colorado, Breedlove followed. "Austin is a trendsetter," he jokes. Breedlove and his wife moved into a house near Evergreen, and "I started growing things, but the herd of elk mowed it all down, and it made me pretty sad," he recalls. "So I started growing hydroponically for fun because my wife loves lettuce, and I'd never grown hydroponically."
click to enlarge a close up of greens growing in a vertical farm
Farm & Market's greens will be harvested daily.
Molly Martin
Breedlove quickly realized that "because the environmental factors are so perfect for the plant, the texture, the flavor, the nutrients are so much better than store-bought," he says. "Also, it lasts for weeks in your fridge versus a few days. I realized, 'All right, this is amazing. And it's a lot more fun than coding. How do I bring that joy to other people?'"

An ultra-urban farm was the initial concept. "Then we realized, that's a lot of produce," Breedlove recalls. His brother attended the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder and was working at Root Down, "so we put our skills together and we figured, why not nourish people with really high-quality made meals and high-quality produce?"

Breedlove landed on the Larimer Street location for a number of reasons. With a lack of grocery stores in the area, there's a need for convenient access to fresh produce. Plus, people living in the RiNo neighborhood "care about the environment, and they care about their bodies," he explains.

Which means that they should care about why this produce is different. Farm & Market's hydroponic setup uses 95 percent less water than traditional farming, and plants are nourished with an ideal balance of minerals — and nothing else. The whole operation is run by a program that Breedlove built using his coding skills.

Farm & Market is also 100 percent wind-powered in order to counteract the fact that "the biggest knock on hydroponics is the pull of energy," he notes.
click to enlarge text on a wall in various colors
Farm and Market is 100 percent wind-powered.
Molly Martin
Because of how the supply chain works, most grocery store produce is around 21 days old when it hits the shelves, Breedlove explains, and produce loses about "6 to 8 percent of its nutrients a day." Here, it will be sold the day it's harvested, so not only will you get a healthier product, but it will last longer — "up to four weeks in the fridge, if you store it properly," he adds.

While all of this equals a better, more sustainable product overall, it won't come at an outrageous premium. "We want to bring this to the people, because we're doing this for the neighborhood. It's not just about trying to get the highest price point; it's about trying to do the right thing," Breedlove says, adding that neighbors can expect to pay only slightly more than they typically would at the grocery store.

Farm & Market is also working with local organizations Samaritan House and Denver Food Rescue to make sure neighbors in need have access to its fresh produce.

During the grand opening on September 16, there will be live music on the outdoor patio from a local singer-songwriter. The market will open at 9:30 a.m. and the restaurant at 11 a.m. Both will operate until 7 p.m. daily.

If the concept proves to be a success, expect to see more Farm & Markets sprouting up. "We absolutely want to do more, because we feel like we're making a positive impact," Breedlove says. "Less water is being used. People are eating healthier. That's our goal."

And one day, this idea could grow to even greater heights. "My pie-in-the-sky dream goal, twenty years from now," Breedlove confesses, "is to have a skyscraper, and every floor grows something different, and it's enough food to sustain an entire city."
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