Made in Georgia: Doctor and his family have made a business out of apples

Pitts' Original products include applesauce, apple butter, apple cider vinegar, apple ginger kombucha and apple juice. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

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Pitts' Original products include applesauce, apple butter, apple cider vinegar, apple ginger kombucha and apple juice. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

David Pitts is a practicing physician, working in Johns Creek and living in Dawsonville. A story he heard on National Public Radio in 2016 piqued his interest in the production and history of hard apple cider, which goes back as far as the production of corn whiskey, although perhaps not as potent.

At the time, he hadn’t tried hard cider, but the story stuck with him, and, during a trip to a music festival, he had his first sip.

“I really liked it,” Pitts said, “and started doing research. I bought plans and made my own cider press, and would go up to Ellijay to buy apples and make cider. The hard cider was only for my consumption, and that of friends.”

But, since he considers sustainability important, he pondered what he could do with the apple pulp that was the byproduct of cider making. A few family recipes, some new tools and a bit of experimentation resulted in Pitts making applesauce and apple butter.

Feedback was good, so he started Pitts’ Original, a family-operated company that sells applesauce, apple butter, apple cider vinegar, apple ginger kombucha and apple juice. They also created a line called Absolutely Apples offering diabetic-friendly applesauce and dehydrated apple slices with no sweeteners.

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Pitts’ Original is a family-run business. Daughter Caroline not only helps with social media, but also works in the commercial kitchen. Courtesy of David Pitts

Credit: David Pitts

Pitts’ Original is a family-run business. Daughter Caroline not only helps with social media, but also works in the commercial kitchen. Courtesy of David Pitts

Credit: David Pitts

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Pitts’ Original is a family-run business. Daughter Caroline not only helps with social media, but also works in the commercial kitchen. Courtesy of David Pitts

Credit: David Pitts

Credit: David Pitts

The Pitts’ Original logo depicts an apple tree with five apples, each apple representing a member of the Pitts family. “The kids all help,” he said. “Elizabeth is a marketing major. Caroline helps with our social media. My son David is my ‘business consultant,’ and my wife Dana is my ‘director of possibilities.’”

Pitts has moved production to Prep Atlanta, a shared commercial kitchen space in Doraville, and the family can be found staffing their booth most Saturdays at the Alpharetta Farmers Market. The products also are sold online.

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David Pitts mans the Pitts’ Original booth at the Alpharetta Farmers Market. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

David Pitts mans the Pitts’ Original booth at the Alpharetta Farmers Market. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

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David Pitts mans the Pitts’ Original booth at the Alpharetta Farmers Market. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

Although Pitts is using Georgia apples exclusively right now, he grew up on a farm in Grovespring, Missouri, and goes back to visit frequently, to tend the apple trees he’s planted in a new orchard there. “My dad’s farm is the perfect spot to grow apples,” he said. “I started in 2018 by planting 80 trees, mostly dessert apples, and 20 pear trees. Since then, we’ve planted 200 cider apple trees for our expansion into commercial hard cider production.”

The cider apples are Arkansas black, Newtown pippin, Northern spy and Cortlands, varieties that aren’t sold much as fresh apples these days, but have the right characteristics to make excellent cider. “I have a degree in biology but never used it,” Pitts said. “But, working on the farm takes me back to that interest in biology, and planting the trees gives me an opportunity to not only see my parents and family, but develop a business in this very small community.”

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David Pitts and his wife, Dana, work together in their apple product company. Courtesy of Caroline Pitts

Credit: Caroline Pitts

David Pitts and his wife, Dana, work together in their apple product company. Courtesy of Caroline Pitts

Credit: Caroline Pitts

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David Pitts and his wife, Dana, work together in their apple product company. Courtesy of Caroline Pitts

Credit: Caroline Pitts

Credit: Caroline Pitts

This year’s harvest is only about 10 apples, but it takes three to five years for apple trees to become fully productive, so he’s anticipating many more apples in the years to come. And, he can envision developing a small-scale processing facility there, providing the opportunity for local jobs. “There will be so many ways to give back to the community,” he said.

Developing and having his products certified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture was not a quick process, Pitts said. “One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was to get certification to make apple juice. Apple juice is highly regulated, because of the potential for contamination. It took about a year, and was a good lesson that things are likely to take more time than you think they will. But, ultimately, if you’re persistent, you’ll get there.”

And, Pitts can see a future for himself as a maker of craft hard cider, focusing each batch on a single variety. “Just as winemakers make wine from pinot noir grapes, we can make hard cider that has the distinctive flavor of the apple variety,” he said.

Those 200 cider apple trees should provide plenty of fruit for experimentation.

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Every part of the apple is used in one or more of the Pitts family's products. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

Every part of the apple is used in one or more of the Pitts family's products. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

Combined ShapeCaption
Every part of the apple is used in one or more of the Pitts family's products. Courtesy of Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

Credit: Dana Pitts

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