Along the California coast, right in the heart of wine country, a fresh Sonoma experience is growing: an Edible Garden Adventure.
Nestled between acres of carefully-plotted vineyards and standard California produce, sitting just a few minutes outside the charming town of Healdsburg is a budding outdoor haven called Noci Sonoma. No doubt an outlier in Sonoma County, its call to area locals is simple:
Noci Sonoma’s founder, Chris Adjani (who prefers to be called Adjani), a husband, father of two, and former design professional, says his passion for the living project goes back all the way to his childhood.
“I grew up in a military family. My stepfather was in the army and my family lived on military bases from when I was five until I turned 19,” Adjani says. “When I was five we moved from California to Kansas, and I made a friend there whose family had a farm. I only went to the farm for one day, but I remember that being a big deal. It really stuck with me.”
As an adult living in Los Angeles, Adjani nurtured his early passion for the simple pleasures of farm life, creating space for planting and harvesting wherever he could.
“I always did little gardens as an adult. When (my wife) Aria and I got together, we changed everything about our outdoor space to be nothing but gardens all around the house,” Adjani says. “Our passion and love for it got bigger and bigger, and I just wanted to live completely within a garden. I was a creative director for many years, but we got to a point where being outside and working with the earth was more important to us. Now I can’t even imagine going back.”
A Beautiful Experience
After deciding that a farm was in their future, Adjani says he and Aria explored areas from their own backyard to quiet towns in Italy before finding the 24-acre plot that is now home to Noci Sonoma. Originally purchasing the land with the intent of housing sheep, pigs, and other livestock, their vision eventually shifted to one of shared gardening, cultivating, and cooking.
“We bought a tractor but I had never farmed before. I originally took it on as a design project, having done small backyard gardens before this, but I had no idea what it would be like to do 24 acres,” Adjani says. “I had to be there and work the land, and as I did that, it went from a traditional farm idea to a space that people could come harvest their own food.”
Two years and 11 buildings later, Noci Sonoma is preparing for its initial opening this summer. Members can come and explore the developing land, harvest rows of fresh strawberries and blackberries, and gather their own bouquet from the property’s cut flower gardens. Those that want to spend a little more time enjoying the property can head to Provisions, the on-site market, and grab fresh breads, cheeses, and wines to savor on one of Noci Sonoma’s decks or outdoor kitchens. Fresh homemade pies, pastries, and ice cream, made by Adjani’s wife, Aria, are also staples of the property’s fare.
“The space is still developing, but we are ready for people to come and harvest and to explore new projects,” Adjani says. “It’s all about the experience. You don’t need to know anything about gardening or farming. It’s for people who want to come and hang out in a beautiful place and try new things.”
Made to Harvest
A father himself, Adjani says kids are more than welcome in Noci Sonoma’s gardens.
“I’ve got two kids and they love it. Honestly, they’re kind of like the target market. They go there, run around, find frogs, eat blackberries; it’s a big playground for them,” Adjani says. “We made a 400 x 65-foot living pool that cuts the farm in half. There are tadpoles and living things in there, and the kids absolutely love it.”
An entirely different kind of garden experience than most are used to, Adjani says his hopes are high that Noci Sonoma’s members and visitors will relish in the fact that the garden was developed for a different purpose than most.
“It’s a beautiful garden, but it’s made to be used and harvested.”
What advice do you have for people who like the idea of planting and harvesting their own food, but may not know where to start?
“It really comes down to just getting out there and starting it. Learning. I came from the design world, not gardening. The people I employ now are the kind that know the names of every plant and every tree, but I still don’t. It’s just hands-on experience and knowledge you gain with time. You don’t have to be intimidated. If there’s something you want to learn, start somewhere simple. YouTube it.”
Do you have any favorite outdoor tools you rely on at Noci Sonoma?
“The Trailblazer flashlight is awesome. I’m out on the property at night all the time, and I don’t head out without it. It’s waterproof, it’s bright, it’s adjustable. Its old school design turned out to be perfect.
What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned from fatherhood?
“I actually didn’t think I was going to have kids. I’m having children late in life and it’s the most important thing I’ve done - more important than all this other stuff. It’s made my life. Having them and being able to teach them and show them things and give them experiences - it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”