FARM:shop is a Farm Growing in a Store

farm chickens photo

Photo: B. Alter

You could call FARM:shop a legal grow-op: they are growing vegetables inside an abandoned house instead of dope. And some tilapia fish, not to mention basil and chickens on the roof.

FARM:shop is, literally, a farm growing in a shop in London. A small eco-design group, Something & Son, rented the empty house from the local authority and they are trying to show how sustainable farming can be carried on in the city.

tilapa window photo

Photo: B. Alter

The fish tanks are on the ground floor, and the tilapia must like the noise of the street outside because they are growing like mad. As are the fresh water shrimp. The waste water from the fish tanks goes on to irrigate the hydroponic vegetables, growing on shelves beside them. Here crops such as tomatoes, lettuce and herbs are being raised which will be used to make food in the in-house cafe.

The basil room upstairs has shelves and shelves of fresh basil. Unfortunately the lights were too hot, so not all of it has flourished, but hey, it's the first few months of this operation so there are lots of lessons to be learned. In the dark and moist basement oyster and shitake mushrooms are being grown.

On the roof, in a big roomy cage, are the 4 chickens. The noise of the buses roaring by below doesn't seem to bother them: they lay 4 lovely big eggs a day.

poly tunnel photo

Photo: B. Alter

In the back is a big plastic poly tunnel so that larger vegetables,herbs and plants can be grown all year round. It has moveable and stackable shelving units and tables which can be pushed indoors and outdoors so that it can be used as a cafe or even a cinema in the summer. There is a small pond with frogs. Beside the poly tunnel two pigs are moving in... They will have the run of the backyard and we won't discuss their future after that.

This unique stacking system is for growing mint: a lot of mint. Little grow pills are piled up in each basket and the small seedlings are popped into them. With water from the fish tanks, there should be enough tea for all of London.

stacked mint photo

Photo: B. Alter

The creators of this project, Something & Son, are three eco designers who see the shop as "a practical testing ground for what does and doesn't work when trying to grow food in a dense urban setting such as inner London." They hope that the model could be replicated in empty buildings across the city.

The men come from different backgrounds, one is a farmer, another an engineer and the third an artist but they all want to encourage sustainable solutions to food production. As one explained: "There are lots of reasons for growing food: it brings communities together, it's fun, there are wellbeing benefits. If we can do it successfully here, perhaps this approach can be part of a more intricate and creative economy."

They have kept costs low by reusing, recycling, begging, borrowing, and networking with companies and neighbours. There is a solid core of volunteers including a former tilapia farmer from Bangladesh who has offered his expertise in tending the fish. Something & Son really want to involve the local community in the project.

Along with the about-to-be-opened cafe, there is a meeting room upstairs and desk space for rent on the top floor. The founders hope that "This will become a hub around which we can create a network selling surplus to local businesses and restaurants, as well as having a box scheme. That way the food supply chain is shortened, minimized and simplified."

More on Urban Farming
Urban Agriculture Grows in the City
Carrot City Exhibit on Urban Farming Comes To New York
Urban Farming is Still a Great Idea : TreeHugger

FARM:shop is a Farm Growing in a Store
You could call FARM:shop a legal grow-op: they are growing vegetables inside an abandoned house instead of dope. And some tilapia fish, not to mention basil and chickens on the roof.

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