“I like to think of myself as a realist,” he said. He does not waste time lamenting the past — like failure to build a Valley-wide drainage system to take salty water out of the region — but only sees a future of challenges to be conquered.

The Diener family is one of five to carve out farms in the Five Points area over the past century. John has been farming on his own for 30 years. His uncle and father started farming 60 years earlier.

Diener is familiar with Cervantes, as well as “Don Quixote” and its Spanish Catholic Church ties. His career took him initially to a seminary where he prepared to be a priest. He took another career path later. He finished his education with an ag econ degree at the University of California, Davis. Out of college, he was a pest control adviser for a major agchem retailer while starting to farm on his own.

He laughs at the apparent dichotomy between farming and the priesthood. “There is really not a lot of difference. You pray a lot in both professions.”

Diener’s best years of farming were the 1980s. His first year of farming was in 1980. With 300 acres he made 5 tons per acre on Yecoro Rojo wheat and sold it for $160 per ton. His cotton yielded 3.5 bales, and he sold it for 78 cents per pound. Water cost $11 per acre foot. Labor was $5.50 per hour. Yields are about the same today. Costs have doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

“Water has always been an issue for the Valley,” he noted. Water conservation and drainage are imperative to survive and that is why he is a founding director of the West Side Resource Conservation District, which acts as the conduit to programs to win government funding so farmers can upgrade their irrigation and drainage systems to stay in business.