Apr 19, 2022 - Business

Hydroponic garden grows greens inside Reading Terminal Market

Christina McCoy
Christina McCoy inside her Sustainable Farm by Custom Cuisine stall at the Reading Terminal Market. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

Inside one of America's oldest public markets, Christina McCoy tends to a high-tech, vertical garden.

What's happening: McCoy is the owner of the Sustainable Farm by Custom Cuisine, a hydroponic farming stall that opened in Reading Terminal Market in November.

  • She grows kale, rosemary, rainbow chard and dozens of other herbs and greens on a pair of vertical farming systems.
  • "If you can make a cup of coffee in a Keurig … you can grow a plant," she said.

How it works: The Philly native, who's also a chef, had been involved in community gardening for years. But the pandemic helped thrust her into hydroponic farming, a technique to grow plants indoors — without soil — using a nutrient-rich solution.

  • She said it allows her to grow crops faster and in small spaces without the need of large plots of land, which are a rarity in the city.

The big picture: McCoy views her shop as a community space, and she uses it to boost other Black women business owners, particularly those in the health and wellness space.

  • Her store's shelves are lined with art, wellness products and other items from nine local Black-owned businesses. McCoy also sells her own skin care products, like body lotion and soaps.
  • "I want to intentionally uplift some women who are around me immediately in Philadelphia," McCoy said.

Zoom out: Black-owned businesses account for 10 of the more than 80 merchants inside Reading Terminal.

  • Three Black-owned businesses, including McCoy's, opened in the market over the past year or so.

What's ahead: McCoy hopes to eventually expand her growing operation, potentially to a warehouse.

  • That would allow her to "maximize my output so that I'm having an impact and not just giving people vegetables one time or even one plant, but able to continue that in the future."

Visit: 51 N. 12th St., Suite D5. Open 11am-6pm, Wednesday-Sunday.

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