Southern Valley: The Chip Carter to My Joanna Gaines

I’m really not an HGTV kind of a girl. Too many options and possibilities in the design and housing world and too little money and know-how in my world. However, I’ve recently gotten sucked into the world of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their hit TV show, Fixer Upper. He’s funny and good looking. She’s beautiful and talented. Her wish is his command; his every word gives her the giggles. They are the perfect combination of beauty, brawn, brains, and banter necessary to entertain the average American viewer. Many nights I find myself in awe of how willingly he works to bring her designs to life. Never mind that he just painted the whole house – she says it’s not the right color, so he’s gonna repaint it. Never mind that the cabinets were just installed and she thinks the island now needs to be relocated – he’s gonna do it willingly. A girl can only dream right.

Rewind to a couple of months ago when I got an itch to do a new booth design for the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure Produce Conference. With one prior produce conference up my sleeve, I had been given a glimpse into the possibilities available in the produce show world and turned to the ever-dependable Pinterest to research ideas for the new booth. Problem was, the display I wanted required skills – skills that I didn’t have. I could envision it, but I couldn’t make it. I knew I had to pull out the big guns.

After running the design idea past a few key figures, there was a huddle of company employees in the office saying, “Whatever you want, we can get it built.” Forgive me for my disbelief, but I grew up in a world where women’s Pinterest projects were not at the top of the priority list, especially in the make it or break it world of agriculture and farming. Essentials were essentials and things such as aesthetics and cutesy little booth displays were certainly not essentials.

Imagine my surprise then when I found myself in the office one morning not long afterward with Southern Valley CEO & President, Kent Hamilton, as he sat me down, got out a notepad, and started asking me what I wanted built. Not only that, but he made suggestions, he thought of construction details that had never crossed my mind, and then he worked to make the design even better than I could have imagined.

Throughout the course of getting our display built, I often attempted to say that such and such would be nice, but I would take whatever was easiest for them. The response was always, “How do you want it to look, Katie?” “Ok, then, we’ll make that happen.” And they did! With plans mapped out and ideas made clear, several little worker bees went to work building our booth display. It’s the first time I’ve ever had something custom made and let me tell you, a girl could get used to this! This must be what it feels like to be Joanna Gaines and have your every design wish fulfilled.

(Note: The only correlation between Joanna Gaines and myself being made here is the fact that whatever she wants built, gets done to her exact specifications. In this sense, Southern Valley became the Chip Carter to my Joanna Gaines. I am in no way, shape, form, or fashion claiming to be anything remotely like Joanna Gaines in terms of skill, beauty, intelligence, etc. The mere idea is completely laughable.)

Typical Southern Valley Produce Trailer    Replica of Southern Valley Produce Trailer

Old Southern Valley Pepper Bins     Re-created Wooden Southern Valley Crates

The idea for the booth was to incorporate Southern Valley’s history and legacy with our latest products and innovative concepts. The wooden crates and their corresponding stenciled lettering (bottom right) were inspired by a picture of one of our old pepper bins hanging in the office hallway (bottom left). The flatbed trailer turned table (top right) is reminiscent of the many flatbeds – often a Southern Valley one – seen hauling produce around the community with the initials of their farm on the back of the trailer (top left). We incorporated these items along with a TV to show our story and our new line of convenience-packaged products – all with the aim of portraying to potential customers the history that got us started and the innovation and progressive ideas that will keep us moving forward in the future.

So…who’s ready to see our fixer upper?!

Southern Valley's booth in 2015.


This year's booth.


If you are at Southern Exposure, look for the pallet board wall and come visit us at Booth 706!

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