KANSAS CITY, KS — The year was 1993, and Mark Friend and Fred Spompinato were working for a bakery in a warehouse district of Kansas City, KS, when they realized they had a better way to make bread.

“The bakery was actually down the street from where we currently operate,” said John Friend, Mark’s son and current president of Kansas City, KS-based Farm to Market Bread Co. “They were making frozen sourdough that was shipped out on train cars. But it was the beginning of the artisan movement in the US, so Mark and Fred wanted to make fresh bread their own way, with a commitment to quality and without compromise.”

That’s how Farm to Market started, and three decades later, this family-owned company holds true to Mark and Fred’s original vision. As the bakery stands on the cusp of commercialization, it’s scaling up right down the street from where that dream began.


Like many commercial bakery origin stories, Farm to Market began with a mixer and a rack oven in the back of a restaurant kitchen, where the partners traded bread for rent and delivered loaves from their cars. The first big break came from a local grocer where the bakers delivered fresh bread each day, and it grew from there.

“We had always been focused on daily fresh delivery to grocery stores,” John said. That was the business’ main avenue for growth, especially after an investment from Fred Ball, then-CEO of Ball’s Foods, which owned several supermarkets in the area. That initial investment allowed Farm to Market to acquire the equipment needed for hearth bread production and a raw dough program.

Although sliced sourdough was the company’s bread and butter, it became somewhat limiting in terms of growth … until a foodservice opportunity knocked.

“When we were approached by a local hamburger restaurant to do buns, it really ballooned our foodservice side,” John said. “We got more into buns and rolls and custom products when chefs would come to us looking for something special. Moving into fresh delivery for foodservice was the next step in our growth.”

Farm to Market upgraded from a 4,000-sq-ft to 10,000-sq-ft commercial production facility near downtown Kansas City, MO, in 2012, with John taking a leadership role. But as the company experienced rapid growth through foodservice channels, they didn’t anticipate how quickly that space was going to run out.

“Ten years from now, we hope to have our sliced sourdough on grocery store shelves in San Francisco,” John said. “Can you imagine? Kansas City sourdough … in San Francisco.”


The next chapter was like a boomerang.

In 2020, the bakery’s lease was about to expire, just as a commercial pie producer was vacating its 30,000 sq-ft. facility back in Kansas City, KS. Farm to Market was set to move into this new space already equipped with enough freezer capabilities to allow the bakery to expand regionally through broadline distribution and grow along with its foodservice customers.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Practically overnight, the bakery lost most of its local foodservice business while the retail side exploded. Although Farm to Market products were typically sold in the in-store bakery, supermarkets needed help stocking the center shelves as well.

“Our foodservice orders, they basically dropped off a cliff,” John said.

“Meanwhile, we had ‘toilet paper Armageddon’ in the grocery stores. We kept bumping up the numbers we delivered to stores, and we just kept selling out. Losing the ­foodservice gave us the capacity to take on more retail production.”

The business picked up about a dozen more retail accounts; to meet the demand, the team ordered more pans from Bundy Baking Solutions and tweaked its packaging with a new label for the center store.

“In the first two weeks of the pandemic, we made up all our losses in foodservice with those grocery sales,” John said.


It also serendipitously created a slow period that allowed the company to move into its new space without losing much production. That setback inadvertently propelled Farm to Market forward.

Limited space and the pandemic’s shutdowns caused a step backward that ultimately thrust the company forward. And now, Farm to Market is prepared to break out beyond its hometown borders … with its original San Francisco Style Sourdough as its top seller.

It’s all about remembering where you started.

“Recipes aren’t a hard place to come from,” John said. “Baguettes have been made for hundreds of years; it’s all flour, water and salt. But paying attention to the product and the process, that’s what makes us stand out … giving it the right floor time and doing all the little steps along the way to get the superior quality.”

Then again, it’s also about knowing where you’re headed.

“Ten years from now, we hope to have our sliced sourdough on grocery store shelves in San Francisco,” John said. “Can you imagine? Kansas City sourdough … in San Francisco.”

Read more about Farm to Market in the October | Q4 issue of Commercial Baking. Photos by Liz Goodwin.