It was a celebration of all things farming and family on Saturday, June 16.
Marking its 100th anniversary in business, the well-known Gambini Farms opened up its family operation to a crowd of friends, supporters and associates to join in the celebration.
Founded by Antonio Gambini and Ilda Basilia Gambini in 1918, the farm is now overseen by Joe Gambini, their son. He will celebrate his 85th birthday later this summer but was as energetic as any one of his numerous guests on Saturday, overflowing with joy as chairs filled, people mingled, stories were shared and memories were made.
Visitors could enjoy a tour of the Gambini Museum – a treasure trove of collectibles – which included such diverse items as high school awards won by Joe to accolades from the California Young Farmers, photos of longtime family friends, business honors and more.
“My dad came from Italy in 1907, he was a 20-year-old boy that came through Ellis Island,” Joe explained. “At that time, they processed 5,000 immigrants a day.”
Antonio Gambini arrived in San Francisco later that same year, not long after the 1906 earthquake, eager to make his own way in the world.
“Imagine a young guy, he didn’t know English … all he knew was America was the land of opportunity,” Joe said.
In just over 10 years of being in America, Antonio Gambini purchased 180 acres of land that is part of the farm that exists today on River Road and was originally a dairyman, milking 120 cows. He started planting tomatoes during World War II and the family later expanded into other areas, now with a nut processing plant on site as well.
“I was born here, on this ranch, and I’m still here,” Joe added, chuckling.
His sister Hazel was born a year later and the business has stayed in the family, with Joe’s son Rod and daughters Toni and Tori all involved, as well as many of their children. Joe lost his first wife, Lila, to cancer in 1985. Now, he works alongside his best friend and significant other of many years, Lois Armstrong. The business also has two corporations, Gambini Farms and Gambini Nut Co.
Saturday’s ceremony featured the raising of the American and California flags, the Italian and Swiss flags as a nod to the family’s heritage, the singing of God Bless America, a little bit of dancing, reminiscing by family and the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the farm’s founders. A lunch was served up by the local Medlen’s House of Beef and there were wagon rides through the orchards, tours of the processing plant, old farm equipment on display, bounce houses for the kids and more.
“We’ve been here 100 years and I’ve farmed it for 60,” Joe noted. “It’s been a great journey.”