Endowment boosts table grape program

Ryan Zaninovich (left) of Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons, and James KennedyFresno State’s table grape program received a boost earlier this year when industry partner VBZ & Sons of Delano, California stepped up to offer financial support through an endowment for the Department of Viticulture and Enology.

The gift was announced by Dr. Jim Kennedy, department chair and director of Fresno State’s Viticulture and Enology Research Center (VERC).

“Earnings from the Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Endowment will be used to support faculty salary, travel, teaching activities, and research and scholarly activities in the area of table grape production,” Kennedy said.

News of the endowment is especially welcome to Dr. Sonet Van Zyl, a new department faculty member specializing in research on table grape and raisin cultivars.

“This industry support from Zaninovich & Sons will provide us with a foundation so we can enhance our commitment to table grape education and research at Fresno State,” she said.

The Vincent Zaninovich family has a history of providing support to Fresno State’s viticulture program, including student educational visits to their table grape operations. Ryan Zaninovich also serves on the Viticulture and Enology Industry Advisory Board.

Van Zyl joined the department in 2011 and is responsible for teaching table grape production courses and for conducting research that will benefit the table grape industry. She was previously appointed as a researcher at the South African Agricultural Research Council in Stellenbosch, where she evaluated new table and raisin grape cultivars.

Her research interests include table and raisin grape production and marketing, cultivar development and evaluation, grapevine and rootstock breeding for improved quality and pest and disease resistance, and industry focused research for the California table grape and raisin industries.