Tribute to Martin J. Zaninovichby Representative Kevin McCarthy
Posted on 2015-02-12
in the house of representatives
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Mr. McCARTHY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of a great
American, a self-made man, a son of immigrants and founder of an
agricultural colossus--Martin J. Zaninovich, who passed away on
December 9, 2014 in Santa Barbara at the age of 91.
Martin's father John left Croatia on the eve of the First World War as the Austro-Hungarian Empire teetered toward dissolution. In California, John married Mary, another Yugoslavian emigre, and found in the San Joaquin Valley the familiar arid climate and rich soils of his Dalmatian homeland. On a small farm outside Porterville the Zaninovichs raised grapes [[Page E206]] and children too, two sons and three daughters by 1940. Martin came first in 1923, and after attending high school in Porterville, he left the valley for the University of Southern California.
The Second World War swept Martin into the United States Army and across the Pacific to the small island of Okinawa. Returning in 1947 to Delano, California, Martin married Margaret Surjak and co-founded Jasmine Vineyards with his cousin Vincent. The farm marked the beginning of Martin's rise in the table grape industry just as it began to take off. In 1961, production stood at 450 thousand tons. By 2003, output had swollen to 730 thousand tons as aggressive marketing more than doubled domestic per capita consumption.
It was not an easy accomplishment. Facing weak demand in the late 1960s, Martin convinced his fellow growers to pool their resources and press the California legislature to pass the Ketchum Act, which elevated the table grape industry to parity with California's other agricultural commodities. Martin--who at various times chaired the South Central Farmers Committee, the California Fresh Fruit Association, and the Delano Grape Growers Products to promote and expand the market--accompanied the California Table Grape Commission he helped found on its first international trade mission to Japan in 1973.
As a staunch conservative with a firm belief in individual enterprise and market economics, Martin constantly pursued policies and goals on behalf of valley growers. His work ethic went hand in hand with his philanthropy; Martin was one of the original founders of the California State University Bakersfield and a board member of Mercy Hospital.
Martin is survived by his wife, Margaret, and their three children: Katina, Sonya and Jon. Today, Martin's family operates his vineyards with the same hard work and discipline he personified so well. The San Joaquin Valley has lost one of its champions, formidable and tireless, another of those citizens for whom the greatest generation was named. On behalf of our community, I ask my colleagues to join me in remembering the life and legacy of Martin Zaninovich, and offering our condolences to his family.