Miranda Forni, Forni Farm & Nursery
I grew up in the garden. My Dad started his farm, Forni Brown Gardens in Calistoga, with his partners just after I was born. My career as a farmer has happened kind of organically (pun intended!). After working as an elementary school teacher for a couple of years and starting my own family with my husband Carlos, I felt called to focus my professional attention in the garden. I worked as a culinary gardener in Sonoma County for a few years, and then launched Forni Farm & Nursery in 2019. We are located on three beautiful acres on Barnes Road in Santa Rosa, and I am lucky to live just five minutes down the road, and to raise my two girls in the garden.
Describe a typical day on your farm.
A typical day in the summer is managing the nursery and the garden. We’re still learning about what grows best in our soil for food production, so we have a small garden of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and of course, tomatoes. We have also planted a pumpkin patch to diversify our business to operate through three seasons. The nursery duties are seeding, labeling, and watering, and, in the spring, transplanting. When we are open to the public, we are busy greeting and helping our wonderful customers!
Name three unexpected sensory delights of farming.
Listening to the mama birds feed their babies in our Heritage Oak tree as the afternoon breeze picks up. On a cold winter day, filling pots with warm composted soil always feels delightful. The pungent smell of culinary herbs growing in our raised bed garden. Having an assortment of herbs on hand is always inspiring when we’re figuring out what to cook for lunch or dinner.
Of which sustainable or environmental practices are you most proud?
Although our farm is not certified organic, we use no pesticides and grow our food the way your grandparents did. No chemicals, no machines, lots of love. We’re not against certification, it’s just another expense we don’t need when we know our plants are grown the right way. All our plant starts and garden plants are seeded and grown by hand on location. We use certified organic soil and fertilizers. In addition to reusing our plastics, we put our used soil and plant matter into our onsite compost to build the health and biodiversity of our land.
If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be, and why?
Make the non-organic farms be the ones that have to get certified and pay more fees. It should be a controlled and expensive process to put chemicals on our food. If organic foods raised on a smaller scale were cheaper and farmers weren’t spending so much on certifications, people would choose to buy organic at the grocery stores and farmers markets. Eliminating chemicals and promoting more accessible local produce is where the food industry should focus their energy.
What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?
If we could only predict the weather. It is both the challenge and the joy of farming, as every growing season is different. February temperatures can be above freezing one year and below freezing the next, which can be detrimental to the survival of our seedlings. Implementing strategies to protect the seedlings and control pests keeps the job interesting. Temperatures over 95 degrees can devastate an entire set of tomato flowers. Still, we love every challenge!
When you’re not farming, what are you doing?
Spending quality time with family and friends. Any chance we get to be off the farm is spent on an adventure. We love catching the sunset at Russian Gulch Sonoma Coast State Beach north of Jenner, or hiking at regional parks like Shiloh and Riverfront Regional.
Where can people find your products?
Our retail outdoor nursery is open seasonally at 4000 Barnes Road in Santa Rosa. Our website, fornifarm.com and our social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) are the best sources to find current information about our business hours. We will have small onsite events coming up and select Saturdays in October for our u-pick pumpkin patch this fall. Follow our platforms to keep up to date!