Urban farming project blooms in Dalston

Urban farming project blooms in Dalston

A community-led, urban farming project supported by Hackney Council has grown into a flourishing business in just over one year of opening.

FARM:shop on Dalston Lane is signing a three-year lease on its property, which is home to mini fish farms, rooftop chicken coops, indoor allotment, affordable workspace and a community cafe dishing up its own produce. Visitors to the shop can see and learn about a variety of sustainable farming techniques as well as enjoying its community events programme including Taste Adventures for school groups, live music and talks.

The business was created by Something & Son LLP, a design practice founded by Andrew Merritt (an artist and sculptor), Paul Smyth (an engineer) and Sam Henderson (a sociologist) who combine art, engineering and business know-how to find creative ways to improve the world around us . The ethos of the FARM:shop is to grow produce commercially within cities and it aims to open up more sites throughout London and other urban areas in the UK.

Also at the core of the FARM:shop idea was to create a community-led business which is self-sustaining. "Often one of these forgets the other," said Farm:Shop s Paul Smyth. "For us it was vital that we got the balance right. We wanted to create an educational, community initiative through something positive as opposed to a preaching or political one. Essentially promoting people powered agriculture and creation of jobs. In order for it to be viable proposition we had to ensure that we were able to generate revenue in order to keep the business operational. And thankfully through the support of our brilliant volunteers, start-up help from Hackney Council and the local community the project is proving to be a success."

The initiative has employed one full-time member of staff, who was initially supported through the Future Jobs Fund, and has the additional support of 10 regular volunteers who help out in the cafe, organising events and growing produce. "We opened our doors last summer and requested the help of volunteers to decorate the premises, we were inundated with support from local people and feel very privileged to have set up the business in the heart of such a welcoming community," said Smyth.

FARM:shop is one of several projects that has benefited from Hackney Council’s Art in Empty Spaces initiative, designed to transform empty properties into something useful and meaningful for Hackney’s residents and visitors.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “The Art in Empty Spaces initiative has proven to be a great catalyst, bringing together creativity and entrepreneurship. It has also shown the breadth of innovation that is found across Hackney’s economy, and how that innovation can be encouraged to come forward within our local economy, further enhancing our reputation as being the most creative place to be in London.”

For more information about Art in Empty Spaces, please visit: