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Pride Month: Food, flowers and flags connect business with allies in Newberg, Dundee

SUBMITTED PHOTO - John Peterson, Jeremi Carroll and Zach Goff have teamed together to get Pollinate Flowers off the ground in Dundee.

In 2012, John Peterson and Jeremi Carroll moved from Beaverton to a rural property in Dundee and started a farm. Their plan was to build a "food forest," designing a system of herbs and ground cover with everything serving a purpose. After completing that project, however, they realized they needed to start up a profitable business on their land.

In 2018, they rebranded their operation as Pollinate Flowers, focusing on growing cut flowers for wine markets, weddings and events. Carroll went to floral design school in 2019, so now Pollinate sells flower arrangements in mostly retail settings. They also create arrangements for events, local businesses and individuals as well.

"We moved to Yamhill County originally because of the wine industry and the people out here who consider themselves stewards of the land," Peterson said. "They are working to leave the land in better condition than they found it and we were really drawn to that culture when we moved here."

Peterson moved to Portland from Montana in 2004, trying to get away from the judgmental attitudes of the people in the town where he grew up, who he said wouldn't accept him for being gay. He met Carroll in Portland and the two fell in love before eventually getting married.

Peterson and Carroll live with their business partner, Zach Goff, on the farm in Dundee. With Goff's help through photography, marketing and business savvy, they've grown a solid social media following and developed a strong presence in the community.

"Zach came into our lives right as we were trying to switch modes with the farm," Carroll said. "He helped us with conceptualizing our brand, does all our photography and graphic design, and is a driving force in our business changing directions. We needed a fresh perspective."

While their overall business focus has changed dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pollinate Flowers remains deeply involved in causes throughout the Chehalem Valley. They go out of their way to serve the people in Newberg and Dundee who have always supported them.

"We switched to cut flowers two years ago, but this year we grew a lot more food and we have been trying to give back to the community," Goff said. "We realized that putting food out there in the community is far more important right now than flowers. One of the things that we did was vegetable starts for people, and for every one of those we sold, we donated an equal amount of money to a local charity. We worked with YCAP and they sent hundreds of plants throughout the county as well."

Pollinate Flowers has also partnered with Providence Newberg Medical Center and A Family Place on various endeavors, and their latest pursuit is a celebration of Pride Month.

June is a recognized month of celebration and awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. For all of this month, Pollinate is donating free rainbow flags to local businesses willing to fly them and support their neighbors.

Life for LGBTQ+ people can be difficult in rural communities where attitudes might not have caught up to those in big cities. The "Pollinate boys," as they refer to themselves, hope the flags can make a difference and show Newberg's progressive side.

The idea of giving out these flags started last year with Peterson and Carroll's friend, Kristen Stoller of Chehalem Dance Academy. She was giving out small flags to the community and the Pollinate boys wanted to do something even bigger.

"What Kristen did was great and we wondered how we could show something beyond individual visibility," Peterson said. "We have lots of gay friends and a community of gay people we know, but in rural communities some people have never even met another gay person. They don't necessarily have a network of support and they might not be involved in the business community. The flags we give out are a simple, amazing way for any business in the county to say, 'you're welcome here.'"

"John and I are both from small towns and if I would have seen Main Street in my town covered in Pride flags, that would have meant so much to me," Carroll said. "Knowing there are people who support you is so important for a young person."

Responses from interested businesses have been overwhelming, Goff said. A number of businesses have already picked up flags to show their allyship and plenty more have contacted Pollinate through its Facebook page. Those interested in picking up a flag or making any business-related inquiries can call Pollinate at 503-487-6796 or visit their website at www.pollinateflowers.com.

Peterson and Carroll hope their business sets an example and they acknowledged that — in a way — they are role models for young people in the community interested in starting a business while being out and proud. They admit to defying a few negative stereotypes as well.

"Gay people are as diverse as any other group," Carroll said. "We are just pretty heteronormative in the sense that we have jobs that gay people don't normally have. We work on a farm. Besides that, we're still pretty gay.

"We have gay friends that are always like, 'Who are you? Why are you so dirty?'"


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