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South Carolina family farm wins National Environment Award

Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C., is the 2009 National Environmental Stewardship Award winner. The family was recognized today at the 2009 Cattle Industry Annual Convention for its "whole-farm" commitment and leadership in conserving natural resources.

"The Yons are what you would call everyday environmentalists," said Dave Petty, chairman of the Environmental Stewardship Award selection committee and 2001 national award winner. "They protect water quality, improve soil health and have enrolled every acre they manage into some type of conservation program or easement."

The award program--now in its 18th year--is made possible by the National Cattlemen's Foundation with sponsorship from Dow AgroSciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Kevin and Lydia Yon, who both have degrees from Clemson University, chose to follow their dream and started a farm with their three children that they hope will one day be a family legacy. In just 12 years, their farm has grown from 100 acres and 100 cows to 1,500 acres of crop, hay and pasture land and more than 800 brood cows, most of which are part of the family's diversified Angus seedstock operation.

"You're never done improving the land. We see something everyday we want to work on and make better," said Lydia Yon after being recognized as one of seven regional award winners in July. To that effort, the Yons have implemented a number of practices aimed at protecting and improving the land upon which they make a living. These include:

--Irrigating crops with pond-water using an efficient, low pressure watering system;

--Planting crops using a no-till, rotational sequence to improve soil fertility and reduce erosion;

--Sampling forage and soil to monitor proper fertilizer application;

--Reinforcing more than 34,000 square feet of high traffic areas around barns, water troughs and feed bunks to prevent erosion and protect water quality;

--Installing 28 water troughs and 55,352 feet of fencing to facilitate rotational grazing on pasture land; and

--Managing farm ponds to encourage healthy wildlife habitat.

Yon Family Farms was nominated for the Environmental Stewardship Award by the Saluda Soil and Water Conservation District, with which the family has partnered to apply conservation and protection practices. Yon Family Farms was one of seven regional Environmental Stewardship Award winners announced in July 2008.

"The Yon family is proof that environmental and economic sustainability go hand-in-hand. They have built a successful business while also doing their part to protect and enhance the natural resources that sustain this industry," Petty said.

The Environmental Stewardship Award has recognized the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of U.S. cattle producers for almost two decades. Regional and national award winners are honored for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitat while operating profitable cattle operations. For information or to nominate a cattle operation, visit www.environmentalstewardship.org.

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