South Dakota ranch, family honored for its commitment to environmental stewardship
Rock Hills Ranch and the Perman Family of Lowry, S.D., were named national winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award for 2014. The award recognizes ranchers for their dedication to exceptional land management practices which serve to improve soil, air and water quality for all.
“The Perman family serves as a shining example to farmers and ranchers across the country, illustrating what is possible when we aspire to improve the land for future generations,” said Forrest Roberts, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Their efforts to improve their pastures have created wide-reaching benefits that extend far beyond the boundaries of their ranch. When cattlemen and women dedicate themselves to conservation efforts, such as those found on Rock Hills Ranch, we all benefit.”
The Perman family’s stated 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 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. The family has also shifted to rotational grazing, no-till farming techniques and planting cover crops to increase the amount of water soaking into the soil after precipitation.
During the growing season on Rock Hills Ranch, the use of a rotational grazing system means cattle move to fresh pastures frequently and a 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. Temporary fence is used 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. 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, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tyson Foods, NCBA, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.
“The Perman family and each of our 2014 regional winners represent the best of American agriculture. They’re making a living from the land and leaving it in better shape than they found it,” said Dave Owens, U.S. Range & Pasture Marketing manager for Dow AgroSciences. “That’s true environmental and economic sustainability, and their efforts should be showcased for the world. Dow AgroSciences is proud to support this program to do just that.”