Fresno State Jordan College of Agricultural Science and Technology followed by a sharp decline in the number of students applying for and majoring in wine production over the past seven years.
And, to offset the loss of wine students and bolster overall enrollment, college officials plan to develop a wine marketing/wine business major, Dean Dennis Nef told GV Wire this week.
Nef said officials weren’t sure why there had been a drop in the number of applicants and wine majors. There was some turnover in the Department of viticulture and oenology since 2015, and a plant science professor had to serve as department head for a few years because no one else was qualified for the job, he said.
Viticulture is the study of growing and harvesting grapes, and oenology is the study of wine and winemaking.
Anecdotally, professors are hearing that students don’t want to tackle the “heavy” load of chemistry lessons that are required for the wine major, he said.
“Oenology is quite dependent on chemistry,” Nef said.
Agricultural college enrollment is back
Overall, student numbers at Jordan College have remained fairly stable over the past six years, but have dipped slightly during the pandemic, Nef said. Agriculture students totaled 1,957 in fall 2016, climbed to 1,993 in fall 2018, fell in 2019 and 2020, then rose again to 1,988 in fall 2021.
While the number of viticulture majors has remained fairly stable during this period – 50 in fall 2016 compared to 51 last fall – the number of oenology majors has fallen from a high of 75 in fall 2016 at 31 last fall, he said.
But the university has also hosted a dozen students who are doing a double major in viticulture and oenology, Nef said.
The university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in viticulture and oenology.
Overall, viticulture, enology, and viticulture/oenology majors fell from 125 in fall 2016 to 94 last fall, according to college statistics shared by Nef.
College officials therefore look to other campuses that have developed wine marketing or wine trade programs. The Department of Agricultural Affairs is teaming up with the Department of Viticulture and Enology to investigate the possibility of such a program in Fresno State, he said.
Fresno State has a long history of wine grape production and winemaking, with a 120-acre vineyard and glued cellar on the campus. University wines, many of which have won awards, are sold at retail outlets as well as online.
Are there jobs?
Jobs in the wine industry have continued to grow since 2001, although the number of jobs fell about 10% during the pandemic, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of wine jobs nationwide fell from 25,363 in 2001 to a 2019 high of 70,596, but then fell to around 64,000 the following year.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of winery jobs in 2020 were in California, with 36,001, the bureau reported.
Meanwhile, the number of wineries continued to grow, topping 5,000 in 2020 from around 1,000 in 2001. California led the nation in 2020 with 1,991 wineries, the bureau reported.
CRU Winery in Madera has hired four Fresno State graduates in the past 12 months and even funded a two-year college scholarship, spokeswoman Rebecca Gilbert said.
“Through this scholarship, we aim to help passionate and often underrepresented students pursue an education and career in wine,” she said in an email.
The company values wine programs and winemakers, and last summer CRU Winery added a full-time winemaker to the winemaking team to support the company’s growth “and its commitment to improving quality of our wines,” said Gilbert.