When California Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti introduced a bill proposing that Zinfandel be made the official state fruit, he didn't bargain on a fight from the state's strawberry, grapefruit and tomato growers.
In January, a group of fourth-grade students in Elk Grove suggested to Pescetti, who is their town's local representative, that he sponsor legislation to establish a state fruit, which the state has not previously designated. The kids -- from Kathryn Bernardis' class at James McKee Elementary School -- carefully researched and outlined their reasons for nominating Zinfandel, calling it the "embodiment of the settlement and agricultural civilization of the west."
Pescetti wrote and introduced AB 2923 in February, and got the support of the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, whose member wineries held a Zinfandel tasting for legislators in Sacramento.
But when the assembly agricultural committee heard the bill on May 8, several members objected because they represent districts whose main focus is on other agricultural crops. The committee entertained the idea of making a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables the state's official emblem instead.
Pescetti countered with the suggestion that the grape, with no designated variety, be declared the state fruit, but the strawberry, tomato and grapefruit representatives would have none of it.
The bill was finally amended to create a state holiday recognizing all of California agriculture on the first day of spring, in conjunction with the already existing "National Agriculture Day."
The amended bill passed and is on its way to the Senate.
Pescetti and staff member Sara Shults will be visiting the fourth graders on June 4 in an attempt to put a positive spin on the disappointing decision. According to Shults, "We're still thinking up ideas for the kids -- maybe planting a school garden with them on the new holiday."
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