Hydroponic garden grows greens inside Reading Terminal Market

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

What is happening: McCoy is the owner of Custom Cuisine’s Sustainable Farm, a hydroponics stand that opened at 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 Philadelphia native, who is also a chef, had been involved in community gardening for years. But the pandemic has helped her take up hydroponics, a technique for growing 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 for large plots of land, which are rare in the city.

The big picture: McCoy views her shop as a community space, and she uses it to empower other black business owners, especially those in the health and wellness field.

  • The shelves of her store are lined with artwork, wellness products and other items from nine local black-owned businesses. McCoy also sells its own skin care products, such as body lotions and soaps.
  • “I want to intentionally uplift some women who are around me immediately in Philadelphia,” McCoy said.

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

  • Three black-owned businesses, including McCoy’s, have opened to the market in the past year.

What awaits us: McCoy hopes to eventually expand his growing operation, potentially to a warehouse.

  • This would allow him to “maximize my production so that I have an impact and not only give people vegetables once or even a plant, but can continue to do so in the future”.

To visit: 51 N. 12th St., Suite D5. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.