Five Points man heads Westside Resource

Five Points, Calif., area diversified farmer John Diener recently was elected president of the Westside Resource Conservation District Board of Directors, replacing Gerald R. Stoltenberg, of Fresno, who retired after serving more than 10 years on the WRCD board.

Coalinga area almond, orange and pistachio producer Bob Viets was elected vice president of the board.

Diener is a third-generation farmer in the Five Points area. He is known for his innovative and progressive approach to agriculture, having been a pioneer in the development of the Integrated On-farm Drainage Management (IFDM) program and for his leadership in the development of on-farm biodiesel and alternative fuel production.

Diener's Red Rock Ranch has become the prototype for on-farm management of saline drainage water. The IFDM Program manages irrigation water on salt-tolerant, high value crops and reuses drainage water to irrigate salt-tolerant crops, trees, and halophyte plants. Salt and selenium are removed from the farming system and can be marketed. There is no disposal of salts and selenium into rivers or evaporation ponds.

Salinity management

Diener has been recognized for his innovative and proactive approach to salinity management, receiving the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 1999, and the California Agricultural Leadership Program's “Profile in Leadership” award in the category of Environment and Natural Resources Stewardship in 2002. He also is a past recipient of the Award of Distinction from the University of California, Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Irrigator of the Year award by the Center for Irrigation Technology and California Vegetable Journal Magazine.

Viets is the owner/partner of West Hills Farms in the Coalinga area. He has been involved in almond, orange and pistachio production on the west side for more than 10 years. A native of the Bay Area, Viets earned a degree in soils from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

In addition to his eight-plus years of involvement with the WRCD, Viets serves as president of the Pleasant Valley Water District Board of Directors, and is one of the original landowners to establish the Stewards of the Arroyo Pasajero Watershed Coordinated Resource Management and Planning Group, which provides financial and technical assistance to landowners for flood and watershed management in the Arroyo Pasajero area. He also serves on the West Hills Community College Agricultural Advisory Committee and is an active member of the Coalinga Rotary.

Stoltenberg recognized

Outgoing President Stoltenberg, a former landowner in the northern part of the WRCD near Mendota, was recognized at the December meeting for his 10 years of leadership.

The WRCD saw tremendous growth during Stoltenberg's tenure as president. The district has been awarded several public and private grants to assist landowners with resource management needs such as erosion and sediment control, flood water management, irrigation efficiency improvements, on-farm drainage management projects and rangeland management.

“The district has lived up to its purpose in helping downstream landowners protect their properties, and it certainly has become a leader in on-farm drainage water management,” said Stoltenberg. “Through the many different programs and projects, it has helped us become better stewards of the land.”

In other action, the WRCD board also appointed Sam Johnson, a Coalinga cattle producer, to fill a vacancy on the nine-member board.

The WRCD encompasses over 1.1 million acres of irrigated farmland and Coast Range land in Fresno, Kings and San Benito counties. The mission of the WRCD is to assure the sustainability of the soil, water and other natural resources.

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