At the intersection of 25th and Lawrence streets in Curtis Park, on the second story of a building—high above the millennials zipping around on electric scooters and the yoga warriors exiting a nearby studio—sits Altius Farms, an 8,000-square-foot aeroponic greenhouse. Inside, small fans whoosh gently overhead and the temperature is always somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees. There’s a slight, almost pleasant humidity to the air and the fresh, clean mineral smell of lettuce. The clear polycarbonate roof diffuses and softens the Colorado sunlight, and glass walls make you feel like you’re surrounded by open sky.
Completing the urban Garden of Eden picture is Altius’ version of fields: 340 columns, each eight feet tall, from which sprout floppy green rosettes of butter lettuce, neon mustard frills, ruffles of baby red Russian kale, and lily-pad-like nasturtium leaves. The plants blanket the white, food-grade-plastic columns so thickly they look like edible topiaries.
Fifty-six-year-old Sally Herbert, co-founder and CEO of Altius, walks through her fields, pausing often to pluck baby kale leaves or fronds of pink-tipped lollo rosso lettuce for sampling. The kale is mild and tender, the lettuce juicy and crisp. Nearby, a smiling intern snips baby arugula leaves into bins while farm manager Ethan Page and other staffers wash, dry, and package the day’s harvest. Assistant grower and account manager Brian Adams will soon deliver bags of the greens to Altius’ growing list of clients, which include Uchi (the farm’s downstairs neighbor), Il Posto, Butcher’s Bistro, and Marczyk Fine Foods.