Vice President of Cannabis Cultivation and Production
While his love of food and obsession with gardening blossomed during his decade at The French Laundry, Aaron Keefer saw his extensive plant knowledge as a stepping stone in a path to cultivate his other favorite flora: cannabis. Every day he witnessed the fruits of his meticulous labor delivered to the most discerning palates in Chef Thomas Keller’s three Michelin star dining room, and he knew that someday he could bring the same passion with quality and care and apply it to growing cannabis.
In the restaurant world Keefer built a reputation as one of the most respected gardeners in the industry. As Culinary Gardener for some of the finest restaurants in the world, Aaron collaborated with celebrated Chef Thomas Keller and his culinary teams at several Keller establishments to harvest and supply the highest quality produce in the industry. It was under the Thomas Keller Group that Aaron fully realized the true potential of ingredient sourcing and how the foundation of a great kitchen is built upon the walls of the garden.
Aaron’s green thumb and passion for the land emerged at a young age. His earliest memories include picking sun-warmed strawberries from his grandfather’s farm in upstate New York at age where he practiced sustainable farming methods and learned to listen to the rhythms of nature. From hand picking fields of berries to tossing hay bales during the summers as a teen, the agriculture life always resonated with Keefer. However, it was the smell of his grandmother’s cooking his recently harvested onions and beans that fully made him realize the full sensory experience that gardening could deliver.
Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Aaron moved to California and began his restaurant career at the Marin Country Club, where he rose quickly to the roles of Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director. Through the past years, he has also legally cultivated medicinal cannabis. It was after he sought a career defining opportunity and began his tenure at The French Laundry that Keefer began to recognize his opportunity to grow professionally. Chef Keller’s insistence upon ingredient quality led Keefer to train in the culinary garden, where he rekindled his childhood love with cultivation, and provided him an opportunity to reconnect with botany on a professional level.
Already a passionate cannabis connoisseur and advocate, Aaron had fallen in love with one plant, but in the gardens of Yountville he became obsessed with learning about them all. From the life of soil to pest management, microbial and fungal elements to the weather, he understands that gardening does not exist in a vacuum. The finest ingredients are produced in harmony with nature and the elements that it brings. Just as a highly tended garden produces the best crops, and a well managed vineyard is crucial to crafting a fine wine, the best cannabis is reliant upon the people and philosophies that nurture it from seed to shelf.
As a professional chef, Aaron has been driven by the validation that comes from creating a product he can be proud of. With respect to any plant, and especially cannabis, Aaron takes a three part philosophy. First: the correct genetics are crucial and are the building blocks of the plant. Strains must be sourced that are going to deliver the desired results. Second: to realize a plant’s potential the soil, conditions and nutrients too must be properly maintained. And last: it’s all about the harvest. Keefer maintains that when, how and what is done to the crop after harvest is just as critical as everything that leads up to that point. As a passionate professional chef and gardener Aaron knows there’s no substitute for quality and sums up his own personal philosophy by stating simply, “Anything I produce is something I’d want to enjoy myself. No shortcuts.”
Here at Sonoma Hills Farm we are proud to abide by this philosophy as well.