New crop of ideas follow Dalston farm’s fallowing

Hiatus for FARM:shop, 20 Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3AZ © DavidAltheer[at]
View from the former hen coop atop Farm:Shop and, top, the shop today

* Update December 2017: The improvements did not happen and the operators are considering how to proceed


FANS OF THE FARM:shop worried by its closure can relax: the Dalston Lane innovation is having a makeover and will reopen this spring 2016.

Five years since the farm-in-a-shop opened to worldwide publicity founder-owners Paul Smyth and Andy Merritt have decided it needs improvement. 

New manager Tracey Suen told Loving Dalston more seating would be added to the café. As for the food grown at the shop, “Produce is used in the weekend café – but we don’t grow enough on site to be able to sell direct to the public, except on rare occasions. 

“We operate primarily as a place for people to see and learn about urban-farming techniques and enjoy our polytunnel garden.”

Salad, herbs and eggs would, she hoped, be grown “more successfully” than in the past year, when “our growing was inconsistent”.

Some commentators thought profits might come from the raising of Nile tilapia in tanks in the front parlour of the shop, that tilapia could even replace whiting, haddock and cod in mass-market food such as fish and chips, sushi, stews and soups. It never did.

A few tilapia still drift around the tanks. Suen assured Loving Dalston they are being well looked after during the shop’s hiatus.

Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) @ FARM:shop 20 Dalston Lane Hackney London E8 © DavidAltheer[at]
Nile tilapia: a shoal of the oriental fish at the FARM:shop during its early days

The rooftop hen run, pictured above, that used to intrigue top-deck passengers on passing buses  did not last but, said Suen, “we still have a chicken run in the back garden and we have recently built a second coop, to which we will be adding four more chickens in April”.

The premises also offers co-working space upstairs for small businesses and kitchen space “to our members”.

Suen said the shop wants to tailor its support towards food businesses “so we can support more urban food and farming initiatives, help people wanting to make food locally, and be a place for a cooking school to operate in”.

Tilapia during hiatus at FARM:shop, 20 Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3AZ © DavidAltheer[at]
Tanked: latest pic of the carp-like fish

Hamish Scott 050316

* Backstory: Fish farming in Dalston Lane

* Membership of FARM:shop, 20 Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3AZ, costs £180 a month and includes desk space, 24-hour access, use of a preparation kitchen and fast internet. A spring-clean will take place on Saturday 12 March and Sunday 13 March 2016. Interested? Email 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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