CA Table Grape Growers Award Nine Scholarships to Local Students

Nine high school graduates from the table grape growing regions in the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys of California were recently awarded scholarships on behalf of California’s table grape growers, the California Table Grape Commission announced TODAY.

Five of the scholarships were awarded to children of table grape field workers: three $20,000 scholarships to four-year universities and two $3,500 scholarships to two-year colleges. Four $20,000 scholarships to four-year universities were awarded to students majoring in agriculture-related fields.

For 30 years, California’s table grape growers have funded the nation’s first worker- focused scholarship program. The program has awarded over 100 scholarships to field workers and their children from the table grape growing regions in California. A few years ago scholarships were added for students living in the table grape growing regions who plan to pursue careers in agriculture.

“The 2014 scholarship recipients are all very talented and motivated individuals, with a variety of career interests,” said Kathleen Nave, commission president. “These scholarships are one of the ways that California’s table grape growers encourage and support education in their local communities.”


The California Table Grape Commission is pleased to announce the 2014 scholarship winners:



Vanessa Serrato Meza
Vanessa Serrato Meza

$20,000 Four-year Field Worker Scholarship Recipients

Ms. Vanessa Serrato Meza is a graduate of Desert Mirage High School in Coachella Valley, and will be attending University of California, San Diego in the fall to study human biology. Vanessa, having immigrated to the U.S. at eight years old, was interactive with others in her community by tutoring and assisting in their studies while taking numerous Advanced Placement and honor courses at her high school. She plans to use the scholarship to continue her education and someday return to her community to help those in need.


Ms. Diana Valenzuela, graduate of McFarland HS
Ms. Diana Valenzuela, graduate of McFarland HS

Ms. Diana Valenzuela is a graduate of McFarland High School, where she ranked at the top of her graduating class with a weighted GPA of 4.39. Diana was a team co-captain on varsity softball, the senior class secretary and a recreation leader in an after school program where she led activities for hundreds of elementary school students. Crediting her parents who came to the U.S. from Mexico and their diligence as her main motivation, Diana plans to study civil engineering at University of Southern California with the goal of giving back to her community by building safe public utilities, such as roads, buildings and bridges. Diana will be a first-generation college student from her family.


Lissette Garcia
Lissette Garcia

Ms. Lissette Garcia is a graduate of McFarland High School, and plans to attend University of California, Los Angeles to study biochemistry. As a member of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Associated Student Body (ASB) and the Roaring Leos, Lissete has participated in canned food drives, served as a math tutor, volunteered at the migrant program and elementary school function, and completed various fundraising activities. Lissette, whose parents she says embedded hard work into her, will be a first-generation college student.



$3,500 Two-year Field Worker Scholarship Recipients

Estefani Hernandez Dominguez
Estefani Hernandez Dominguez

Ms. Estefani Hernandez Dominguez is a graduate of Highland High School, and plans to attend Bakersfield College to study culinary arts. Estefani, who says her parents are the biggest influence in her life, is a deaf student who has not allowed her deafness to prevent her from succeeding. In high school she was the vice president of the deaf club and was an honor student her sophomore year. Estefani’s goal is to become a chef. She loves cooking food for family and friends, and dreams of some day owning a restaurant in Fresno and being the first deaf person with a Food Network television show.

Maria Lozano
Maria Lozano



Ms. Maria Lozano is a graduate from Reedley High School, and plans to study for an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in medical assisting at Heald College. Maria was very involved in high school, being active with the Spanish Club, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), California Scholarship Federation, Generation Green and was secretary of the Migrant Club, while volunteering in school and community activities. Maria came from Mexico to the U.S. when she was a baby, and refers to her parents as her heroes. She has dreamed of becoming a registered nurse for years. Maria will be a first- generation college student in her family.



John Taylor Ball
John Taylor Ball

$20,000 Four-year Agriculture Scholarship Recipients

Mr. John Taylor Ball is a graduate from Clovis West High School, and plans to attend California State University, Fresno to study agricultural business. During high school, Taylor was recognized as a Scholar of Academic Distinction, a high academic honor, while being involved in volleyball and basketball and serving the community through organizations such as Assisteens. Taylor’s family has a history in agriculture. His grandfather was a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley for many years. The combination of life experience and his family’s strong ties to agriculture have solidified his career direction and passion for agriculture, specifically the produce industry. Taylor has the goal of some day owning a thriving produce sales and marketing company in the Central Valley.


Adilene Gonzalez
Adilene Gonzalez

Ms. Adilene Gonzalez is a graduate from Hanford High School, and plans to double major in business administration and dairy science at California State University, Fresno. Adilene is known as a student who excels in academics and someone who demonstrates a concern for others through community service activities. Graduating with a 4.09 weighted GPA, Adilene was involved in the California Scholarship Federation and HHS Drama Club, and she devoted volunteer time to the local public library and a farm care program taking care of neglected animals. Her life-long goal is to some day administer her own dairy, continuing to keep the roots of agriculture in her family.


Julia Reese
Julia Reese

Ms. Julia Reese is a graduate from Clovis North High School, and plans to attend University of California, Davis to study plant science. Julia’s interest in agriculture comes from living in a farming region, her parents’ close ties to agriculture, and projects with 4-H and science fair during high school. Julia was a scholar athlete, graduating as a valedictorian while undertaking a number of co-curricular activities such as water polo, track and field and participating in youth court and key club, co-founding the French club and serving the community through a number of different organizations. Julia envisions her future working in a rural setting in a role that will help improve the production and efficiency of farming. She would like to work with grapes at the production level some day as a pest control advisor or fertility consultant.



Cristiano Alves
Cristiano Alves

Mr. Cristiano Alves is a graduate from Kingsburg High School, and plans to study agricultural and environmental plant sciences at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Cristiano balanced a rigorous course schedule with many activities such as water polo, involvement with Future Farmers of America (FFA), being his senior class president and a youth group leader and altar server for his church, and volunteering with Kingsburg Choir Crab Feed and Fresno Rescue Mission. His interest in agriculture comes from growing up on a farm and a unique opportunity he had through a vineyard maintenance project with FFA in which he was responsible for harvesting grapes, assessing crop fertility, weed management and pest control. Cristiano says some day he would like to become an agricultural pest control advisor.


Scholarships will be offered again next year, with applications for 2015 available in the fall of 2014 at

Local California Table Grapes are Going Global

Harvesting California table grapes is going strong. Many different varieties are being picked, and boxed in the vineyard and sent to the cooler for market.CATableGrapes

“We’re harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley now, and just finishing up in the Coachella Valley,” said Kathleen Nave, President of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission. “The grapes are moving quickly into the marketplace in the US, Canada and around the world.”

“Mother nature has been kind so far with respect to the quality and the weather.” said Nave.

California Table Grape Commission is implementing a Grapes From California marketing campaign to connect with consumers around the world, as well in the U.S., focusing on usage, or ways in which grapes are consumed, and health benefits.

“We have brand new television commercials airing on the Food Network,” said Nave, “and we have Food Network magazine ads in the U.S. and similar ads in other parts of the world,” she added.

Nave said that the state’s grape growers have been amazing, producing two record crops, back-to-back, and now maybe a third. “So in 2012, we crossed the 100 million-box mark for the first time, and in 2013 ,we took a very big, unexpected jump, to 117 million. Our estimate for 2014 is just slightly higher than last year’s estimate,” said Nave.

Scholarship Committee Member Minami Honored for 22 Years of Service

Photo: Chairman Louis Pandol (right) congratulates Dr. Dwight Minami (left) after presenting him with a board resolution thanking him for his service.


Dr. Dwight Minami’s Service on the Nation’s First Worker-Focused Scholarship Program

FRESNO, CA – Dr. Dwight Minami was honored on July 17 for his service on the committee of the California Table Grape Workers Scholarship Program.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Minami volunteered his time and energy to help evaluate over 1,000 applications that led to the award of college scholarships to California table grape field workers and their children. During his tenure, 76 students were awarded scholarships to attend universities, junior colleges and trade schools to study subjects such as accounting, nursing, engineering, culinary arts, biology and business.

“Dr. Minami’s involvement has been instrumental to the long-term success of the nation’s first worker-focused scholarship program,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “Using his expertise as a professor at California State University, Fresno and his knowledge of the valley and the agricultural industry, Dr. Minami’s valuable insight and conscientious review of each year’s applications helped ensure that talented, qualified candidates were selected to receive the grower-funded awards.”

The California Table Grape Workers Scholarship Program was established in 1985 and has since awarded over 100 scholarships to field workers and their children from the table grape growing regions in California. Dr. Minami served on the committee from 1993-2014.

“On behalf of the California table grape industry, a heartfelt thanks is extended to Dr. Dwight Minami for his hard work, commitment and dedicated service to higher education, the California table grape industry, and the state’s table grape workers and their families through the field worker scholarship program,” said Nave.

Table Grape Harvest Now Underway in SJV

Source: Cecilia Parsons; Ag Alert

Color, sugar content and berry size of many early table grape varieties hit harvest targets last week in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Harvest in the Arvin area of Kern County is a week to 10 days earlier than normal this year, according to grape grower Ryan Zaninovich. Harvest of the San Joaquin Valley’s 70 to 80 varieties of red, green and black table grapes will continue through November.

Zaninovich, chairman of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League and manager at Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc. in Richgrove, said warm spring weather is driving earlier harvests in all grape-growing regions of the state. The desert region table grape harvest began in late April and will wind down this month, as harvest transitions to the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Coming off a record-production year of 117.4 million 19-pound boxes for all growing regions in 2014, Zaninovich said yields from this crop are estimated to be about average to larger with excellent quality. An updated crop estimate will be released in July, prior to the peak of the California harvest. Coachella contributes about 5 million boxes to the total.

Zaninovich and retired Kern County Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor Don Luvisi said no serious pest or disease issues are looming for growers. Grape quality is expected to be excellent again this year, with only minimal sunburn where canopies are light.

“When we have good spring weather, that generally means the quality will be high,” Zaninovich said. Grape mealybug is always an issue, but growers have been able to keep them under control, he added. Growers keep up with pest control and suppress powdery mildew early, Luvisi said.

The biggest challenges this season for growers will be water and labor. Most depend entirely on groundwater supplies for irrigation. Adequate water not only ensures higher yields, but also protects vines from stress that invites pests and disease.

“We’re all relying on groundwater and hoping the wells don’t go dry. I’ve heard of a few growers who are having issues with their wells,” Zaninovich said. “We all have strategies for best water use and to protect the longevity of the vines.”

Zaninovich said different varieties of table grapes use different amounts of water during the year. Varieties that are harvested early in the season or have lighter yields use less water than heavier producers or varieties harvested later in the season.

Labor will cost more this harvest season and availability could become a problem for growers later in the season, and many varieties and other hand-harvested crops demand labor, said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League.

“There are no reports of shortages now, but the crunch time comes in August and September, when we’re competing with other harvests,” he said.

Harvest crews are paid by the hour with bonuses per box. Bedwell said they average higher than minimum wage, but growers base their pay on the state minimum wage. The harvest requires skilled labor, and crew members can average $10 to $14 an hour, he said. Table grapes are field packed into boxes and trucked to cold storage prior to shipping.

California’s approximately 500 table grape growers are looking at strong prices and robust export sales this year, according to Bedwell. The trend for both is upward, as growers are coming off two strong sales years.

Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, said table grape growers have been extending their harvest season with new early and later varieties of grapes. Red grapes dominate the top five. Flame, Scarlet Royal and Red Globe are the top three varieties in acres planted. Autumn King and Sugarone are two of the most popular green grapes, while Autumn Royal is the most popular black grape.

“With a longer harvest season and promotion efforts, we expect exports to be up,” Nave said.

Canada, Mexico and China are top export destinations for California table grapes. Bedwell pointed out that while California products are popular in China, that country’s table grape production far outpaces California. With annual production hitting 1 billion boxes, their Red Globe varieties alone equal all of California’s production.

China has begun the process of exporting grapes to the United States, Bedwell noted, and is currently in the pest review process—which could take another three years.

Luvisi said the biggest change in table grape production over the past 20 years has been the development of many seedless varieties.

“Seeded grapes are really hard to find now,” Luvisi said. Older varieties like Thompson Seedless are also being replaced with varieties that hit certain market windows. He noted Kern County table grape growers have planted a newer green variety, Superior Seedless, after taking out Thompson Seedless vineyards. Zaninovich said he has planted another newer green variety, Autumn King, which is a heavy producer.

In the past few weeks, Luvisi said, Kern County growers were checking vineyards for color, sugar and berry size to determine when to harvest. Market demand and prices also drive the decision, he said.

Recent weather has been an advantage. Temperatures above 95 degrees slow down development; cooler days with 85 to 95 degrees push maturity. When bunches of red grapes are 95 percent colored, Luvisi said harvest will begin. Green grape maturity is determined by sugar content. Berries will continue to size until picked, he added.

“We’ve had perfect weather for making sugar,” he said.

TV Campaign for ‘Grapes from California’ Kicks Off on Food Network

A new television campaign for ‘Grapes from California’ launched in June on the Food Network.

“These commercials showcase the natural beauty, easy versatility and great taste of California grapes while communicating the value of sharing life’s special moments with family and friends, and the care that growers put into growing,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission.

One of the two new commercials has a grower theme and the other has a dinner party theme. Watch them here:

These 30-second commercials, the first two of a planned series of six, are seen during shows like, “Trisha Yearwood’s Southern Kitchen,” “Sandra’s Money Saving Meals,” “Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen,” and “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.”

The Grapes from California commercials will run through December and and will be used in future seasons.

Record California Table Grape Shipments

117.4M Boxes of Grapes Shipped Surpasses the $100M Mark for Second Time in History

It was announced TODAY that California shipped a record volume of 117.4 million boxes (116.2 19-pound box equivalents) of fresh California grapes during the 2013 season, a total crop value of $1.7 billion.

The 2013 season started with shipments in early May and continued into February 2014. California produces 99 percent of the commercial fresh grapes grown in the United States.

“Over the past 10 years the volume has significantly increased,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “In 2003 the crop was under 80 million boxes. In 2012 the 100 million box mark was crossed for the first time in history, and in 2013 another record was set with the crop totaling 117.4 million boxes.”

Exports also hit a new record in volume, with 48.6 million boxes shipped to export markets including Canada – a 17 percent increase over the previous year. The top export markets in volume included Canada at 11.9 million, followed by China/Hong Kong at 7.9 and Mexico at 6.6. The 48.6 million boxes exported represented 41 percent of the total crop volume.

With the 2014 season a little over a month away, the commission is gearing up its global campaign for Grapes from California which includes retail, consumer and foodservice programs.