Fresno frĕz´nō [key], city (1990 pop. 354,202), seat of Fresno co., S central Calif.; inc. 1885. Settled in 1872 as a station on the Central Pacific RR, Fresno profited from irrigated farming as early as the 1880s. Extensive and sophisticated agribusiness in the San Joaquin valley (Fresno co. is the leading U.S. agricultural county) made Fresno one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation in the 1980s, its population increasing by more than 62%. The financial, processing and shipping, service, and commercial center for the valley, Fresno handles fruits and vegetables as well as cotton. Cattle and dairy farming are also important. Among the city's manufactures are beer, farm machinery, plastics, vending machines, and orthopedic appliances. Nearby oil and natural gas fields also contribute to Fresno's economy. The city is the seat of California State Univ. Fresno, Fresno Pacific Univ., and Fresno City College, the oldest junior college in California (established 1910). The city and its Armenian community are the subject of William Saroyan's writings. The Sierra National Forest is nearby.
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