Rock Hills Ranch and the Perman Family of Lowry, South Dakota, were named national winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award for 2014.
The award program each year recognizes seven beef producers for their dedication to exceptional land management practices which serve to improve soil, air and water quality.
The Perman family says their goal is not to simply sustain what they have, but regenerate what was once there. To accomplish the goal of regenerating the natural state of the land in their care, Luke and son Lyle Perman have spent years studying the ranch and working to improve pastures, reduce rainwater runoff and create wildlife habitat, all of which contribute a positive benefit to the ranch's profitability.
They have steadily increased rotational grazing, incorporated no-till farming and experimented with cover crops on their farmland to improve the water cycle and mineral cycle and to increase diversity of all species on the ranch.
During the growing season, Permans use a rotational grazing system so cattle move to fresh forage frequently. This serves the purposes of letting the forage recover at the same time it keeps the cattle moving into fresh forage. Each pasture may only be grazed once or twice per year.
To accomplish this, the Permans have installed an extensive cross-fencing system, which includes about 60 miles of permanent fence. They use temporary electric fence to split many of the 40 permanent paddocks into smaller paddocks for grazing, depending on conditions.
The Perman family's responsible management practices extend to their ranch succession plan. Rock Hills Ranch was started by Lyle and Garnet Perman with 1,000 acres in 1976. It now contains more than 7,000 acres through ownership and leasing.
Three years ago Lyle and Garnet leased the ranch, equipment and cows to their son, Luke, and his wife, Naomi. This arrangement allows Luke to make most of the decisions about the ranch.
Lyle, who also operates an insurance business on the ranch, works for Luke and they confer on managing and marketing. Giving Luke and Naomi the responsibility of ranch operations helps ensure continuity of ownership from one generation to the next.
The Environmental Stewardship Award Program, now in its 24th year, was created to recognize beef producers who make environmental stewardship a priority on their farms and ranches while improving production and profitability.
The ESAP award is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA-NRCS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tyson Foods, NCBA and the National Cattlemen's Foundation.
Other beef producers honored at the event Thursday night from across the country were:
Region I: Sherwood Acres Farm, owned by Jon and Sylvia Bednarski, LaGrange, Kentucky.
Region II: Two Rivers Ranch, owned by Robert M. Thomas and family, Thonotosassa, Florida.
Region III: Nichols Farms, owned by Dave & Phyllis Nichols, Lillian Nichols, Bridgewater, Iowa.
Region IV: Rocosa Ridge Ranch, owned by Bruce and Barbara Berg, Dallas, Texas.
Region V: Wineinger-Davis Ranch, owned by Russell and Tricia Davis, Ordway, Colorado.
Region VI: Conlan Ranches California True Grass Farms, owned by Guido Frosini, Valley Ford, California.
You can learn more about these winners and see pictures of their operations at the Environmental Stewardship homepage.