Every morning, Gina Hambly wakes up to the sweet scent of lavender. For the past five years, she and her family have owned and operated Hambly Farms, where they grow lavender and produce lavender products. 

Between Gina and her husband Milton, the two have ties to the North County going back five generations. 

For Gina, she jokes that “You can follow my family by the alcohol.”

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Her great-grandparents met at what is now Halter Ranch — her great-grandmother worked as the upstairs maid, and her great-grandfather built the stone wall that still stands there today. After getting married they moved to build the Mastagni ranch, where Firestone Walker is now located. In a field on the property, you can still find a concrete silo standing as a reminder of the Mastagnis. 

From there, Gina’s grandfather Armand Mastagni — the youngest of 17 kids — established his ranch with his wife Mary where the Summerwood Air Bed and Breakfast is located now. They owned the property until the Hope family purchased it in 1993.

“We grew up around agriculture, we just didn’t participate in it,” Gina explains how she and Milton found their way back into agriculture. “Our kids loved raising animals in 4-H and FFA, and we liked the lifestyle, so we bought the farm we are on now in 2017.”

Milton recalls his family coming over to California in a covered wagon in 1886, ending up in the Carissa Plains, where the grass was chest-high. About 50 years later they moved closer to town to run walnut and almond orchards. 

Even though Milton graduated from Atascadero High School and Gina from Paso Robles High School, the two didn’t meet until attending Fresno State University in 1991. 

Being from rival high schools, Gina laughs, “We call ourselves a blended family.” They married a few years later at St. Rose Church and will be celebrating 30 years of marriage this year and have three children together: Mary, Wyatt, and Avery.

Once Gina and Milton purchased their property, they knew they wanted to farm it. Just what to farm they weren’t sure yet, so Melanie at Nature’s Touch in Templeton came out to the property and suggested they grow lavender. 

With the plant being drought tolerant and having so many purposes — not to mention being beautiful — it was a match made in heaven. Since 2019, they have been growing lavender on their farm and producing lavender products. 

It was a learn-by-doing process; Gina says, “We are fortunate to have friends who are farmers, like Lila Avery-Fuson from Central Coast Lavender, and tow croppers in the Salinas Valley that we are able to lean on, and then we joined Farmstead ED, and then we gained a whole other family of farmers.”

For two years, Gina has been running the farm and business full time, with Milton helping between teaching at King City Middle School, where he has been for 23 years, and also at the local colleges in Monterey County.

Her new lifestyle of waking up to lavender fields is a dream says Gina: “It does feel good to be able to go out every day and say good morning to the animals and feed them and walk to the fields … make a plan [for the farm].”

Also being able to create new products with lavender has opened a new passion of creativity for Gina. She and Milton give guided farm experiences to the public where they can educate people on the different aspects of farm life and how the products are made start to finish. Seasonally, they even offer U-pick experiences in the lavender fields.

“Being able to offer that [experience] to someone as well as teach them about farming and teach them about that farming lifestyle [is so worth it],” says Gina.

The two have developed a passion for being able to connect people to agriculture and bridge the gap that has developed between farmers and consumers.

She says, “There is something freeing about putting your hands in the dirt and hands on plants and you see that on people when they come to the farm. They leave happy.”

When not on the farm, Gina is a member of the Paso Robles Pioneer Day Belle and Attendant Committee. Gina and Milton both come from a long line of Pioneer Day belles, attendants, queens, and marshals, so the event has become close to their hearts.

Gina is also a co-chair for the Olive and Lavender Festival hosted by the Paso Robles Main Street Association and works closely with Farmstead ED. This year, she is the chair for Farmstead ED’s Open Farm Days Friday Night Kick-Off Marketplace.

So be sure to say hello to Gina when you see her at some of these events or at the farm — all you have to do is follow the sweet smell of lavender.

Feature Image by Brittany App Photography

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