Pickin’ Peaches with Derek Chitwood

Over the past few months, I have been hounding one of our long time supporters, Derek Chitwood of Peach State Pride, for an interview.  Finally, we had the chance to sit down over a peach or two and spend some time together.

The story of this small town, peach picking, charming, Southern guy is pretty remarkable.  I have had the pleasure of knowing Chitwood for awhile, and was blown away by the Peach State Pride business plan when he told me about it a couple of years ago.  The design, the story, and the mission behind it are amazing.  If you ever see me out, you can’t miss my PSP hat.  I have one for everyday use, and even a camo hat for hunting.  Often times, I am stopped by someone while I am out wearing my PSP hat, because they always want to know where I found it. Needless to say, I really like the brand.  Here’s a little something about the guy behind the company, Derek Chitwood:

TL: Obviously Georgia means a lot to you. What is the story behind Peach State Pride?
DC: Well, I have always had a lot of pride in where I come from. I guess it’s just ingrained inside of me, something that has been passed down to me. My grandfather is the same way. But it goes beyond Georgia, I’m proud of the community I’m from, the town and county I grew up in, the high school I went to, and the college I attended. As well as my family, the teams and organizations that I’ve been apart of.
That being said, I’m passionate about this state, the good and the bad, and I know there are countless others that feel the same way. That’s why I started this movement less than 3 years ago. It’s for people who care about Georgia.

There is a lot of disparity in the cultures of Dade County and Savannah, the city of Atlanta and the rest of Georgia, Albany and Dahlonega, the list goes on. Peach State Pride is an effort in some ways to unite Georgia pride under one symbol.

TL: Derek, you started your own small business in a crappy economy. What inspired you to take a leap of faith and build this business?
DC: To be honest the bad economy really didn’t cross my mind. I had a vision and I began to carry out my vision, there really wasn’t anything that could have stopped me from pursuing this. When you’re passionate about something you make it happen.

Derek Chitwood of Peach State Pride

TL: What are the biggest hurdles that you have faced while building your brand?
DC: Two things: I don’t have a business background, so I’m just learning as I go! I’ve made some mistakes, but you always learn. Also cash flow has been an issue because I don’t have an investor. This business has been completely funded out of my own pocket. For the last 3 years I’ve worked a couple labor jobs and invested when I could. I’ve traveled the U.S. working on post office machinery and traveled the South building playgrounds. It’s been an exciting and challenging 3 years and it’s been amazing seeing everything come together like it has!

TL: What is your most memorable triumph while building the company?
DC: I’ve really enjoyed so many small victories. Every week there seems to be something new to be excited about; a new design, a new product, a big sale, positive feedback. It’s all about the simple pleasures!

Working side by side with my grandpa every summer shaped me in so many ways. It made me who I am. Its hard not to be impacted by a man like him. Always sharing wisdom, always working hard, yet it’s never about the ‘dollar’ with him, it’s more about pride in what he does. He loves working with his hands, he loves agriculture, sunsets, rain in a drought… the simple things in life.

TL: Why do you think that natives should have more pride in Georgia? Is there room for transients to the state?
Peach State Pride - Stay SouthernDC: Oh man, this is such a big reason as to why I wanted to do this. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of pride in our state and there always has been. I think it is manifested so well through UGA football. I believe the passion and pride for UGA football goes so much deeper than sport. A Bulldog victory over a school from another state, and Georgians rejoice partly because it was a win for our state. People love to have something to identify with, and there are countless different avenues that Georgians use to fill this need. But I guess the main problem that I’ve seen with Georgia Pride within the state is that geographically and culturally there is so much diversity, maybe more than any other state in the Deep South, and from these differences come misunderstandings. There is a lot of disparity in the cultures of Dade County and Savannah, the city of Atlanta and the rest of Georgia, Albany and Dahlonega, the list goes on. Peach State Pride is an effort in some ways to unite Georgia pride under one symbol.
As far as transients. Of course I believe there is room, but it’s their choice. I can’t fully relate, because my love of Georgia has been cultivated since I was a child. For someone who has moved here, they have to choose to be proud. But anyone who wants what’s best for their community, anyone who believes in stewardship should have no problem in quickly developing pride in where they live. Or so it seems.

TL: How did working on a peach farm while growing up shape you and your business?
DC: It played a major role. When you’re young your world is small. I knew from a very young age that my family grew peaches and that Georgia is the Peach State. I guess I felt like the ultimate Georgian! I was from a small town, I loved football, and I picked peaches! As I got older I realized how big our state was and how unique my background was.
Also working side by side with my grandpa every summer shaped me in so many ways. It made me who I am. Its hard not to be impacted by a man like him. Always sharing wisdom, always working hard, yet it’s never about the ‘dollar’ with him, it’s more about pride in what he does. He loves working with his hands, he loves agriculture, sunsets, rain in a drought… the simple things in life.

TL: What’s your favorite peach dish?
DC: There are so many, but if you’re a Chitwood, it’s an easy answer: My grandma’s peach rolls. They are amazing! They’re basically miniature peach pies made with a special variety of peach. Delicious!

TL: Where is your favorite location to visit in Georgia?
DC: Great question. There are still some places that I want to see, but I do have a few favorites: Downtown Savannah, Historic Washington and Historic Madison, Lake Burton in Rabun County, and Athens in the fall. Being a graduate of Georgia College, I have so many great memories in Milledgeville and back home on Jackson Bridge Road in Franklin County as well. But honestly you could put me on a back road in most parts of rural Georgia and I come alive. I love seeing new places, old homes, historic buildings, and fields of agriculture… Southwest Georgia as the sun’s going down; big sky, big trees, and big beautiful fields. I love it!

TL: Do you have any new gear coming out?
DC: I always have something brewing! I’m working on some polos right now, slow process. But expect koozies, croakies, visors… I don’t know, the list is endless!

Derek did us a favor and listed a few local shops that carry his gear right now. I made a copy of the list and placed it below. You can support the local joints or go straight to the Peach State Pride website to buy some gear.

Don’t forget to keep it local, stay Southern, and explore!

About the Author Kevin

Kevin Ekmark is the COO at TrustWorkz, Inc., the co-owner of En Pointe Designs, and the Co-Owner of The Trot Line. He was born and raised in Georgia. Kevin loves peanut butter, bourbon, the outdoors, football season, and rare meat... Oh, and anything with bacon.

Comments

  1. Hisorically and presently pride in a southern state or in being southern has overwhelmingly been an activity and identity for whites. How do you feel your brand attempts to counteract the racial divide in southern or Georgia pride? Is there a place for black pride in being southern, for example, Or will that forever carry a sense of double consciousness for African Americans (decedents of slaves) in particular – the notion that they are black and in the south, but not “black southerners” or “black Georgians” because of our state and countries history? When you discussed the disunity of Georgia pride, this immediately came to my mind since racial division was and still is a problem of attempting to form a cohesive Georgian or southern identity.

  2. Great questions, let me start of with this statement: I feel like today’s racial tensions and segregations
    plague our entire country, the industrial cities of the north and particularly the Old South, in unbelievable ways. To me and many, this is an obvious observation, but there are people that are oblivious to this existing problem, and I want you to know that I am not one of them. I have dreams of my brand and logo having a very powerful vibe that Georgians of any color look to with a sense of pride. I would love to see our state carry the banner for the South in the direction of improved black and white unity. That is a dream of mine and I believe that Peach State Pride can in fact play a role in doing that. I think in the future you will see the identity of PSP broaden to encompass a larger and more diverse Georgia. We plan on that.

    I think the most intriguing question you asked was ‘Is there a place for black pride in being southern, for example, Or will that forever carry a sense of double consciousness for African Americans (decedents of slaves)?’ I believe that change has to occur in our communities and in the minds of many southern whites before southern blacks fully embrace being southern. I guess my hope and dream for Peach State Pride is that it will do great things and in some ways offer new meanings to being ‘Georgian.’ It’s like I tell people, I’m just proud of where I come from, it really wouldn’t matter if I were from, say…. Ohio. If I were born and raised in Ohio I would embrace being an Ohioan, the good and the bad, and try to address the bad. And I think that’s what goes on within blacks in Georgia, they’re proud of where they’re from right down to the area code and street they grew up on, but there are stigmas attached to being ‘southern’ and many blacks don’t want to fully embrace it, and rightfully so. To a southern black, there is a lot to address there. Hopefully, what it means to be ‘Georgian’ will always be moving in a better direction for blacks in our state and that ‘double-consciousness’ that you speak of can slowly diminish. We want to do all we can to make that happen.

    And I do believe that Georgia blacks are as proud of our state as anybody. I have multiple black friends with tatoos that in some way manifest their pride in the State of Georgia. You hear references to our state and the city of Atlanta in numerous rap songs by black artists. I am fully aware of this state pride that exists within the black culture of Georgia and my visions and dreams for Peach State Pride definitely include the interest of that community.

    If I had it my way and Peach State Pride could accomplish one goal before I die, and I know this is so idealistic, (Aside from having our entire state come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… but that’s a whole other can of worms) it would be that the UNDERLYING racial issues within Georgia be addressed and whites and blacks would live harmoniously with one another. That’s a tall order, I know, but I would die a happy man. I have personal goals and ideas for my rural community back home to bring about change there. And that’s all I can really do, but ultimately that’s where change has to occur, in the communities. Anyway Peach State Pride is a young brand with some pretty lofty goals! So thanks for those loaded questions, that kinda opened me up a little bit. If you have any other questions feel free, I would love to try to answer them.

  3. Derek,

    Thanks for thorough, professional and well articulated answer! It is difficult thing to deal with. Continued racial inequality or segregation is certainly not something I expect a brand to fix, but I was just curious about the brands stance given the demographics that brands targeting southern identity often attract. You certainly can’t always control who will or will not identify with your brand, but seeing that there are racial differences in how or if people identify with the south/Georgia is already a great step that will consciously or unconsciously inform decisions the brand makes as it grows!

    Best of luck!

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