June 22, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
“People will think you’re crazy, then they’ll love it” commented Jamie Oliver on a recent visit to the FARM:shop, a once derelict London shop transformed into the world’s first urban farming hub. FARM:shop is a workspace, cafe, and events venue packed to the rafters with living and breathing food–literally a farm in a shop.
Asking themselves “how much food can we grow in a shop?” FARM:shop opened its doors in March and aspires to become the meeting place of choice for London’s food lovers and urban farmers, as well as a special place to rest one’s feet, have a coffee, and smell the countryside without ever leaving the city. Busy growing their idea, FARM:shop folks have filled the old space with a mini fish farm, vegetable garden, and are raising chickens and livestock.
With a vision for bringing farming into the city, FARM:shop was dreamed up by Something & Son, an eco-social design practice founded by Andrew Merritt, Paul Smyth and Sam Henderson, who combine art, engineering, and business know-how to find creative ways of improving the world around them.
They have plans to develop a network of shops and grow sites across the UK. The first FARM:shop, in Dalston, is the start of this initiative. FARM:shop aims to:
1) Excite and inspire city dwellers to grow their own food, fabric and medicine and make an income doing this.
2) Create direct links between farms in the countryside with urban communities
3) Grow food commercially via a network of FARM:’s across cities and retail this food at FARM:shops
And on a sunny day, customers can relax at FARM:shop’s cafe, sitting alongside their indoor farm or out in their garden polytunnel. The cafe serves up some of London’s freshest food using ingredients grown in-house or sourced from local growers.