Adam Sturm started a mobile market to get quality food from restaurants and local farms to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it outside of seasonal farmers’ markets.
Sturm moved to Greenville in 2007 after finishing his culinary degree and worked in a variety of industry positions, including executive chef at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls and general manager at New York Butcher Shoppe. He left that world with the hope to help others: “It was a decision I made to step down from traditional culinary arts and get into a business of my own that had a better schedule and also did something for the community.”
In January 2014, the dream was realized as Adam’s Mobile Market. Sturm describes his work with the food truck as a “mobile farmers market.”
The business evolved from farm-fresh vegetables delivered on a food truck to include take-and-bake meals in late 2014. By April 2019, Sturm celebrated the opening of his 900-square-foot headquarters in Travelers Rest, at 104 S. Poinsett Highway.
Sturm says that during its busiest times, the shop produces 200-300 meals a week.
The mobile market practices a direct-to-consumer model, which differentiates it from food hubs like Swamp Rabbit Cafe or Hub City Market, where the farmers and customers both have to come to a market. Sturm says he delivers the food directly to the communities that need fresh food most.
“Going into a food desert where you’re not received well can cause more damage than good,” Sturm says. “We’ve had some when it wasn’t the right time or location. We move on. We really don’t have a systematic way of looking at numbers and saying ‘this is the area where we need to be.’ We choose neighborhoods by conversations, people asking us to come there, or by a business reaching out and inviting us to an event.”
Sturm says he practices “Robin Hood economics,” which means that at some events he charges full price, while he charges reduced pricing in others, depending on perceived financial need.
“We’re up front about it,” he says. “We tell them, and 90% of people are like, ‘that’s cool.’ If someone comes up, we’ll have a conversation. Our community is very understanding.”
The market recently stopped accepting SNAP and EBT, but they still honor the discounted pricing, or even give food away for free, depending on the situation.
Sturm’s truck brings its market on wheels to the Roger C. Peace Center at Prisma Health from 3-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays. There the market can serve every income level, whether from the hospital staff who they see each week, to patients, to visitors who just happen by.
“The nurses, when we first started, would all come out with Chick-fil-A bags and walk right past the truck,” he says. “Four years later, we’ve watched it evolve to 60-80 customers, depending on when we’re set up. To see the evolution of healthy eating just by providing one environment with a healthy choice is pretty good.”
Besides local produce, Sturm also provides educational information. He visits assisted-living homes on Thursdays and saves time for giving his “local food 101” talks to local businesses in the afternoons.
The market also acts as an incubator for new farmers. Sturm uses his knowledge and experience to check up on them, as well as providing an outlet for their goods once harvested.
Through his work at the market, Sturm supports nearly a dozen farmers in the Upstate, as well as small-business owners such as Leopard Forest Coffee, Blue Ridge Brinery, Naked Pasta and others who are represented at the market’s headquarters location.
Sturm says his goals for the market’s future include an established headquarters and more food trucks.
“One thing about our business is that it’s community-driven. Without their support, at the truck or at the market, we can’t continue. We try to gain traction every year and continue, but we don’t operate by a lot of outside help. We’re run by the community and the more support we get, the bigger things we can do.”