Farm: Shop


Written by Kim Wilson
Photos and illustrations by Laura Billings
09 Monday 09th May 2011

What gave you the idea to set-up a farm in a shop?

We’d been talking about food within Something & Son for a while as its obvious that with prices going up and stresses on land there’s room for a discussion of other options. We’d seen a lot of mock-ups of urban farms in other countries but nothing similar in London or the UK so we were thrilled when the opportunity came up to use an empty building. We started with the simple aim to see how much food can you grow in a shop and the project grew from there.

Did you receive much support from Hackney Council?

Hackney Council have been big supporters. The concept came about from a competition they ran to transform an empty building they owned which inspired us to try our hand at urban farming. Rather than leaving a building to gather dust it’s good to see the Council take the smart view that it’d be better being put to use to support a local not-for-profit business.

Chickens on the roof

What was the initial response from residents?

It’s been incredible, a few people thought it was a bit odd at first but you get used to seeing chickens on the rooftop and it becomes part of the scenery. Many of our regular customers live locally and they’ll either come to us for a quite place to work for the day or to buy a box of our eggs or freshly picked salad.  We just wish we could have opened sooner. I know of at least one disappointed resident - a guy walked up one day and asked when the pet shop would be opening.

What is the aim of the Farm: Shop?

FARM: Shop is bringing farming to the city. Just as rural farm shops have helped country farmers get the best deal for their produce, we hope FARM: Shop can do the same for urban and suburban growers. Above all else we like to keep things simple and judge our success by the amount of actual food we are growing and selling as well as our ability to bring people together to share their urban agriculture skills.

Eggs for sale

Has there been a lot to learn?

None of us have a farming background so it’s been a steep learning curve with lots of ups and downs (aphids, floods and crop failure) but we’ve got some fantastic volunteers on the team who’ve brought their own expertise into the project. So far we’ve grown large amounts of tomatoes, chillies, basil, kale and bags and bags of salad and we are trying our hand at growing Loofah back scrubs! FARM: Shop is just the start of the experiment and we hope to grow more and more food in the coming years.

How long has it been running?

We’ve been open six days a week to the public since late April and its great seeing the café, workspace and events schedule fill up. When we got the keys in July last year (2010) the building was empty and run down so we spent the summer working with the local community to do the place up and build chicken coops, polytunnels, aswell as lots and lots of painting and floor sanding.

Micro Greens

How is it funded?

We’ve been privately funded so far with small grants from Capital Growth and the Art in Empty Spaces competition. Most importantly we’ve kept costs low and had some invaluable support from organisations like Growell, Aquaponics UK and Church Farm who want to see us succeed and show the world that urban farming can really work. Going forward the business will be funded by income from the workspace, café and the produce we can sell.  If you like what we do please come along to one of our events or even better become an urban farmer yourself and buy one of our grow-your-own mushroom blocks from the café.

Do you have plans to expand?

Absolutely. We’d love to see FARM: Shops and FARM: grow spaces across London and in other cities. If anyone out there has an urban empty building, large rooftop, warehouse or plot we can FARM: please get in touch and we’ll come and visit. If enough of us come together maybe we can farm the whole city!

Kefir grains fermenting

What events have you had?

We run regular events at the FARM: Shop including talks, open volunteer days and pop up parties, we rent the space for birthdays, receptions and meetings. We’ve teamed up with Ctrl-Alt-Shift to run a Climate Change Festival on Thursday 12th May, and food guru Colin Tudge is hosting dinner and talk on 19th May (see here). Also look out for our next Party in a Polytunnel at the end of May.

Find out more about FARM: Shop at

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