California 2009 Red Rock Ranch Five Points Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

John Diener’s Red Rock Ranch consists of approximately 5,000 acres in Fresno County. He farms an array of high-value row crops, using innovative approaches to land, water, and wildlife management.

In the spirit of Aldo Leopold, he has had a lifelong commitment to rehabilitating his land. Upon discovering that some of his land was incapable of growing crops because of high salt levels from saline drain water, he developed a method to clean the soil and the saline water.

Diener also pioneered work on conservation tillage for his crops that reduces the number of passes with a tractor, dust emissions and diesel fuel usage. He couples conservation tillage with water-efficient irrigation systems and is developing highly efficient and resource-conserving tillage and water management approaches for all of his crops.

His efforts don’t stop at his ranch’s borders. Diener has led the charge in addressing saline drainage water management issues with the Westside Resource Conservation District, of which he is a charter member, that brings conservation and resource management services to landowners. He was a member of the California Ag Leadership Class XX and received the prestigious Profile in Leadership Award in the Environmental and Natural Resources Stewardship category. Diener continues to work with several educational institutions (University of California Cooperative Extension and California State University–Fresno) and state and federal agencies (USDA Agricultural Research Service and NRCS) to achieve a sustainable system for managing the salt load from irrigation drainage. He also has hosted hundreds of students and other visitors to educate them about his crop management systems.

“John Diener is the most insightful, conservation-minded and overall successful farmer I have ever had the privilege of working with,” wrote Jeff Mitchell, University of California Cooperative Extension, in his letter of recommendation. “He is always looking for a better way of doing things and through the vast visibility he has achieved throughout the region, he has brought tremendous innovation and natural resource conservation benefits to the entire San Joaquin.”

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