Farm To Market Bread Co.

Kansas City, MO

Last summer, the Wheat Foods Council sponsored a “Wheat Safari” in Kansas and Missouri for nutrition bloggers and other food professionals. Washington, DC-based food writer and stylist Lisa Cherkasky was one of the participants and shares this profile of one of the stops on the tour.

Farm to Market Bread Co., Kansas City, MO, was created in 1993, the brainchild of Mark Friend and a partner. The two men started their inspired business small, growing it slowly and thoughtfully. “The original mission included a commitment to bringing high quality breads to the everyday person,” says Mark’s son John, who works with his father in the business. “All natural and traditional. Bread with flavor. Artisanal. Fresh.” That noble legacy continues today.

The Friends source all their ingredients, and flour specifically, with dedication.  Flour is clearly on their minds as well as their hands, and Mark spoke with expertise on wheat, flour, and bread, and the myriad ways in which they are linked and interconnected.

To achieve a successful artisanal loaf the appropriate flour is key, compounded by time. Proper fermentation is an absolute must and the dough must be given plenty of time to ferment. “Without fermentation there is no real flavor,” Mark emphasizes. And there are no shortcuts. He drives home his point by remarking, “It takes a good day to make real bread.”

Long fermentation is only a success story with proper flour. So, just what defines the flour that is required by Farm to Market?

To explain, only certain specific flours can support a lengthy fermentation. All wheat flours have protein – also called gluten, which gives the flour strength. In simple terms, bread dough needs strength to grow as it ferments, proofs and bakes. “Fermentation tolerance is important and higher protein flours help with that,” says John, adding wryly, “you just don’t need a sledgehammer.” In other words, enough gluten, but not too much.

High-gluten flours produce strong breads, but will produce a less flavorful loaf. At Farm to Market Bread, flavor is their mantra. “Gluten, like rubber bands, varies in strength and elasticity. Artisan bakers don’t want to overkill with gluten because it makes tough and less flavorful bread,” explains John.

Hard red winter wheat produces the Friends’ preferred flour.  The growing area for hard red winter wheat is central to western Kansas, the nation’s largest hard red winter wheat growing state, and spills over into Texas, Colorado and Nebraska – sometimes local for the Friends and sometimes not. Again, the quality of the flour is key.

About 30,000 pounds of flour weekly – over 1.5 million annually – is baked at Farm to Market. That may sound like a lot of flour and it is, but in terms of ingredient purchasing, Farm to Market is small.  

Mark and John take it slow and steady while thinking big. Their sights are set on working more closely with wheat farmers in the future – closely enough to garner the attention needed to develop a solid market for artisanal flours. Meanwhile, Farm to Market’s sensational breads rise slowly, are purchased steadily and, one hopes, will be solidly present in the future of Kansas City.