If you drove through London’s East End, you would see a number of retail shops that one might find in any urban area. Some are doing well, yet some of the shops are in various states of disrepair or decay. You might, however, be surprised to know that one of these is an actual farm. The new concept is called Farm:shop and has turned every nook and cranny of a retail establishment into a thriving farm environment.

Paul Smythe is the co-founder and engineer of Farm:shop and believes that people should be reconnected with the food that they eat. There is a separation between living in the city and knowing where and from what the food is taken. This has spawned the urban agriculture movement. The Victorian shop in the Cockney part of London has a rooftop filled with grazing chickens but that is just the start. When you go inside you will see Talapia filled fish tanks, fruit and flowers in bloom in the polytunnel greenhouse and mushrooms growing in the basement. There are rows and rows of salad leaves and herbs growing from the ‘shelves’ that are hydroponic troughs. The inside of the shop appears more akin to a laboratory than your local garden center. In lieu of sunshine, low energy light strips encourage the vegetable growth and if you looked over you would see a large cluster of petri dishes that is actually the cabbage patch.

This undertaking was not without bumps in the road, as Smythe admits. They have learned many lessons, but they must be doing something right. The shop has been open for a few years and has already added a café, grocery store, an events area, and office space that is leased out. The local interest and support has also been astounding. People are curious, come in and want to learn more about raising fish, chicken and the vegetables that they consume.

The Farm:shop is another of the continuing efforts around the globe that are expanding urban living and bringing farming into the town and to the people. Urban agriculture has had a slow start, but there are more and more communities that are researching and adding areas totally devoted to growing food. In many cities the rooftops are covered with urban gardens and research as well as investment is being made to make these farms totally sustainable with zero waste. The need is becoming greater every year as reported in 2008, the food industry is responsible for around thirty percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

Urban agriculture is a rising star in the world of ecology, because the professionals and experts know that the system simply isn’t working. The growing populations are outpacing the food available and what is grown and produced is creating a polluted environment. Visionary individuals like Smythe and others are addressing the issues and bringing the farm into the city, making use of retail establishments that would have been empty and offering education and knowledge to the community.

Sources: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/30/world/europe/farm-shop-london-sustainable-agriculture/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

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