Fifth-generation farmers, Frank and Stacey Gambonini own and operate their family farm, Gambonini Family Ranch, which was formerly known as Gamlake Dairy, in Petaluma. There they proudly celebrated the dairy’s 100th year in 2013.
Frank Gambonini grew up on the ranch following his father, George Gambonini, around in his little rubber boots, thinking he was a “big-time” farmer. Today, that perception has become his reality, and he said he loves every minute of it.
“Being a farmer has always been my passion,” Frank said. “Now, it’s a pleasure that same love of agriculture has been passed down to my kids.”
Along with their three daughters, Francesca, Alexandra, and Samantha, Frank, and Stacey operate their organic ranch with over 130 head of dairy and beef cattle. The farm boasts over 500 acres of rolling Sonoma County pastures where the heifers all graze together.
Some of their biggest accomplishments were when Gamlake Dairy was awarded the 2013 Outstanding Dairy of the Year, the Edward J. Maddalena Memorial Trophy, presented by Sonoma County Fair, and the 2014 Farm Family of the Year, presented by Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
In 2007, the ranch converted to organic, which Stacey said has required education, dedication, and the adoption of new technology.
In 2019, however, Gamlake Dairy ended their milking operation. Today, their family farm has diversified to include a wide array of agricultural offerings and experiences. Frank and Stacey now raise organic dairy heifers, are starting a herd of beef cattle, operate a seasonal farm stand with homegrown pumpkins and flowers, and host a vacation rental on the ranch.
“Starting our new venture has been very exciting and rewarding,” Frank said. “It’s been great having people coming out to the farm and to provide an opportunity for a fun activity that is COVID-19 safe.”
This year, they planted 17 pumpkin varieties, varying in size and color, including specialty pumpkins, such as Porcelain Doll, Long Island Cheese, Kakai Organic Pumpkins, which are deliciously roasted, and Valenciano Pumpkins that are perfect for pie baking. Also planted are 8 varieties of squash and gourds, Indian corn, and several varieties of sunflowers and fall flowers.
“My wife is very creative and the farmstand allows her to really be involved,” Frank said. “Instead of producing milk, we are catering to the public now, so it really fits her skillset, but I still get to farm. We make a good team.”
Although the farm has seen many changes, one thing remains constant — both Frank and Stacey continue to work to build their legacy to advocate and promote the dairy and agricultural industries in Sonoma County.
“Our biggest challenge today is our transition from a dairy ranch into something that is economically and environmentally sustainable for our family and the community,” Stacey said.
She added that to continue her family’s farming legacy, adaptability and diversification must be incorporated into decision making. They hope to help to preserve and create a new level of “farm to table” experiences on their organic family ranch for their daughters, Francesca, Alexandra, and Samantha to take over in the future.
The Gambonini’s three daughters are all well on their way to making positive impacts in the agricultural industry.
Francesca, the eldest daughter, earned her B.S. in Dairy Science from California Polytechnic State University and has completed her M.S. in Animal Science with an emphasis in Reproductive Biology from Penn State. Currently, Francesca is working in Chicago for a pharmaceutical public relations firm.
Their second-oldest, Alexandra, earned her B.S. with a double major in Dairy Science and Ag Business and will complete her M.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Minnesota.
She will start her career with the California Federal Milk Marketing Order in November.
Their youngest daughter, Samantha, is a senior at Petaluma High School, and President of the North Coast Region FFA, Secretary of Petaluma FFA Chapter, and President of the Redwood Empire Junior Holstein Association.
Frank said that he is thankful that he was able to raise a family in the agricultural community.
“Being able to raise our daughters on the farm and in agriculture where they are outside every day has been really special,” Frank said. “This lifestyle taught them a work ethic, and the way you learn a work ethic is not by being forced to work, but to have something to work for. Being part of a family ranch and showing their cattle, they had to earn that opportunity.”
The Gambonini daughters were fierce competitors in the dairy show ring.
“In 2017, my daughter Alex won Junior Champion of the Junior Holstein Show at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin and the following year Samantha, my youngest daughter, won Grand Champion of the Holstein Show and Reserve Champion of the entire Junior Show with her cow,” Frank said. “Before that, we thought going to our County fair was pretty cool.”
In addition to being ever-evolving agriculturalists and steadfast stewards of the land, Stacey said that her family has always been heavily involved in the community.
Frank has been the Petaluma FFA Dairy Judging Coach since 2010, is a current Board Member of the Redwood Empire Holstein Association and the California Holstein Association, a Board Member of the California Beef Council, and is on the Board of West/Select Sires, a Sonoma – Marin Italian Club member, and the Sonoma Valley 4-H Dairy Leader.
Stacey is the Advisor to the Redwood Empire Junior Holstein Association, a Board Member of the Lakeville Volunteer Fire Department, and the Sonoma Valley 4-H Newsletter Manager.
Frank said that the Gambonini Family are Farm Bureau members because the organization is crucial to the future of agriculture in Sonoma County.
“If agriculture is going to survive in Sonoma County, we need advocacy organizations, such as Sonoma County Farm Bureau, to represent and protect us farmers, and provide us with continuous updates of issues affecting our businesses, along with educating the public about agricultural importance,” Frank said.
Stacey said that her family is proud to be a member of the agricultural community.
“We love the people, the community atmosphere, and being a part of this Sonoma County agricultural family,” Stacey said.
Stacey said she hopes the future of her family’s involvement in the agricultural industry will see the 6th generation of Gamboninis being stewards of their land on Old Lakeville Road No. 3 in Sonoma County.
To learn more about the Gambonini family visit their website, www.gamboninifamilyranch.com and you can find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gamboninifamilyranch/ and Instagram at Instagram.com/gamboninifamilyranch