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CG&TFL presents 2012 Mentor Award to Marko Zaninovich

HALF MOON BAY, CA -- Marko B. Zaninovich, president of Marko B. Zaninovich Inc., d/b/a Sunview Vineyards, and also president of Sunview Marketing international, was the recipient of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League's 2012 Mentor Award.

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Marko Zaninovich, recipient of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League's 2012 Mentor Award, with Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, who presented the award. (Photo by Rand Green)

The award was presented March 26 to Mr. Zaninovich on behalf of the league by Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, at the league's 76th annual meeting, here.

In introducing the recipient, Ms. Nave said, "I am honored by the request and grateful for the opportunity to present this award to someone who has quietly provided years of demonstrated leadership and years of mentoring to many in the table grape industry." He has "influenced the industry in a positive way through effort, discovery, innovation, dedication and perseverance" and has demonstrated "character and vision."

Born in 1942, Mr. Zaninovich entered the family grape business started by his father after earning a B.S. degree in plant science at University of California-Davis. He was married a year later, and the following year, at age 24, "became the head of the family business following the death of his father," Ms. Nave said.

Mr. Zaninovich has served in many capacities in many industry organizations over the years and was "the first chairman [of the California Table Grape Commission] I worked with when I became president in 1998," she said.

Recalling the challenges he faced upon assuming leadership of the family business just 28 months after joining the company and still fresh out of college, Mr. Zaninovich told industry members present at the meeting that with the farming knowledge and strong hand of his father no longer there, he looked around for support from other sources.

"I found relatives, I found friends, I found competitors that I could talk to, people who were kind enough that if I called ... would talk, answer questions, explain and reassure," he said.

He also drew on help from researchers, plant scientists and others at the university. "People were generous with their time and their opinions."

Mr. Zaninovich told those in the audience that they are all mentors. "I recognize that all of you in this room give of your time and your energy to various organizations," he said. "Through your actions, you are mentoring others. You are to be congratulated."

Steve Hash, outgoing chairman of the board of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League and owner of Steve Hash Farms in Kingsburg, CA, reviewed goals of the organization and highlighted some of the challenges facing the industry and the accomplishments of the league in addressing those issues over the past year.

"Our organization is known for its pragmatic approach to working with policy-makers in Sacramento and Washington, DC," he said. "We reflect the collective interests of the industry where leaders set aside personal convictions in a bipartisan political environment. As the primary public policy organization for the fruit industry, the league has adopted a realistic and sensible approach to building bridges with elected and appointed leaders."

During the past year, "the league worked to assemble a coalition of 30 agricultural and business organizations to press the state legislature and administrative officials ... on the importance of securing a veto for SB104," the so-called "card check" legislation. The bill, which was vetoed by the governor, would have deprived workers of the right to secret ballots in elections determining whether a company's work force would become unionized.

Among other things, the league also weighed in on E-Verify, "cautioning lawmakers against entertaining a mandatory E-Verify program without addressing [first] a workable agricultural worker program," Mr. Hash said.

League President Barry Bedwell noted that 'things aren't getting easier for farmers." He identified the need for "a legal and stable work force" as top issue facing the industry and the league's highest priority.

The league's membership is diverse, "yet our voice is unified when we go to Sacramento and Washington, DC," he said.

Succeeding Mr. Zaninovich as chairman is Ryan Zaninovich, an officer in V.B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc. in Delano, CA.