Local Hero: The Man Behind the Market
There is something simply refreshing about walking into the Turnip Truck Natural Market in East Nashville or the Turnip Truck Urban Fare store in the Gulch district downtown. There is an air of sophistication meets grass roots authenticity. There is a security in knowing that the fresh, locally sourced foods you place in your cart will be just as easily embraced by your body. And there is a man behind it all--a local hero who has dedicated his life to spreading the importance of eating well and building a stronger, healthier community. John Dyke, owner and founder of the Turnip Truck, has his parents to thank for planting his passion for natural, locally grown foods. Growing up on a farm in East Tennesseeâ€TMs Greene County, Johnâ€TMs family raised most of their own food, including vegetables, eggs and meats. “I remember my mom buying bread and milk at the grocery store, and thatâ€TMs about it. Everything else came from our farm,” John said. “I think that upbringing is the source of my work ethic to this day.” That work ethic propelled his dream to open a natural market that could bring his community the same natural foods he longed for after decades of being away from the farm. “I had been living in historic East Nashville, making the trip across town to shop at Sunshine Grocery (Nashvilleâ€TMs only natural foods store at that time). Every time I went there, I would run into neighbors from East Nashville. It occurred to me that our community could support a natural foods store of its own. I recognized a void in Nashvilleâ€TMs natural foods market, and I wanted to fill it.” Johnâ€TMs dedication meant using vacation time from his day-job in surgical sales to travel to whole foods expos. In 2001, he discovered a building in the heart of Five Points that would become home to the store he had dreamed of opening, the Turnip Truck. The building was a body shop at the time, but it had been an H.G. Hill grocery store in a past life. “We took the building back to its roots, building a grocery store much like the one that would have existed there in the early 1900s. Once again, people entered its doors to source chemical-free, in-season local foods and connect with fellow community members,” John said. Nine years later, a second location followed in the Gulch district, and his success has only continued to grow. The secret? A genuine passion for connecting local farmers with the community. “When we opened the store, there were some certified organic farmers in the area, but we wanted to help more small local farmers and food producers thrive. That was a central part of our vision then, and our goal to this day is to source as much as we can from our local environment,” John explained. But farmers are not the only audience John aims to help. “Part of the Turnip Truckâ€TMs vision going forward is to educate the community about the importance of eating well. We want to shine a light on the significance of consuming organic, non-GMO food. I have a dream of Nashville becoming a non-GMO city,” John said. Chipping away at that dream starts with revolutionizing the way people grocery shop, and pioneering innovative solutions to combat urban limitations, like building a hydroponic greenhouse to grow greens year-round on the rooftop of the latest Turnip Truck endeavor--a new and improved store in East Nashville. John and his team are in the final planning stages for the store, slated for the intersection of Woodland and Seventh Streets in Five Points. The 12,000-square-foot development will replace the original 3,000-square-foot store just up the road. John reports they will break ground “extremely soon,” and could be open by late summer. “We are excited to bring our community expanded offerings in the store, that will include fresh foods prepared in-house daily, a hot bar, a salad bar, a juice bar and a full-service meat department, as well as beer and wine,” John said. And, in true John Dyke fashion, the store will also feature a community room to host educational sessions and serve as a general community area for the neighborhood. “When people slow down enough to have that real relationship with the food they eat--seeing where it comes from, appreciating its smell, taste and look--it has enormous benefits. We want to encourage that type of interaction with food, starting at a very young age.” As for Johnâ€TMs local hero? “The farmer who wakes up every morning and gets his hands dirty.” He plans to do that himself on the farm he recently purchased.

“My goal is to eventually grow some heirloom vegetables for my own stores. This is taking me full circle, back to my childhood, which has shaped the past and future of the Turnip Truck.”

A very bright future, indeed.
For more information on the Turnip Truck visit: theturniptruck.com.

By Jenny Cupero
8034 Bienville Dr E-304
Nashville, TN 37211
(919) 623-5193

Jenny Cupero moved to Nashville from her hometown in North Carolina five years ago after falling in love with the city during a summer internship. Currently the director of business development for 5by5 – A Change Agency, Jenny specializes in building relationships with prospective clients to connect them with the solutions they need to be successful. Read more at: musiccitylostandfound.blogspot.com.