BY VIVIAN KASPARIAN
FRESNO—The Santikians hosted a house party for Armenia Tree Project, a non-profit organization, as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. The gathering took place in Fresno, one of the oldest Armenian communities in the United States. The event highlighted ATP’s success in growing fruit trees in Armenia, as well as the deeply-rooted connection the Armenian families living in Fresno have to farming and agriculture.
Attendees gathered at the vineyard, owned by the Raffi and Hilda Santikian, on October 12. The Santikians have a strong cultural and generational connection to their vineyard, where they have been hosting the traditional “Prpoor Festival” since 2017. The festival features brewing the remnants of the year’s crop, and waiting for the thickened molasses to produce foaming bubbles, called “prpoor” in Armenian. The festival held at the Santikians house brings around 200 Armenians together every year.
The ATP event featured traditional dancing, food, and drinking locally-produced wine. This event was significant for ATP, since the organization had never before hosted an event in Fresno. It brought together old and new friends from both Fresno and Los Angeles, and gave attendees insight to the organization’s work throughout the years.
Executive Director Jeanmarie Papelian gave a short presentation about ATP and spoke about the organization’s 25 years of success. She also highlighted the community’s historical roots in Fresno, and how their successes in farming and agriculture speak truth to Fresno-native William Saroyan’s famous words, “For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
Armenian immigrants in Fresno worked as farmers and helped contribute to the flourishing agriculture of the county. Today, Armenian families in Fresno own farms and other agricultural companies where they produce a variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The community boasts five Armenian churches, a school, and other cultural establishments.
Throughout its 25 years of existence, ATP has impacted the farming industry in Armenia. It has planted more than 274,000 fruit trees since 1994. Within its three nurseries, ATP has propagated apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, sour cherries, and quinces, as well as almonds and walnuts.
Most recently, ATP’s team has been busy grafting around 15,000 fruit trees in Chiva, Armenia. Grafting makes it possible for ATP to produce high-quality, cultivated varieties of fruit trees. Most of the seedlings will be transplanted to communities in 2020.
“This successful grassroots event in Fresno was an exciting moment in ATP’s 25th Anniversary celebration,” noted Papelian. “We hope to host this event every year, and grow our base of friends in the Fresno community.”