The Yon family, owners of Yon Family Farms in Ridge Spring, S.C., has received the National Environmental Stewardship Award for their commitment to conserving natural resources.

Kevin and Lydia Yon, both Clemson University graduates, and their three children, Sally, Drake and Corbin, received the award Jan. 29 at the 2009 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in Phoenix.

Lydia graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree and in 1989 with a master's, both in animal science. Kevin graduated in 1988 with a bachelor's degree, also in animal science. Their daughter Sally, a high school senior, has applied to Clemson to study agriculture education.

Lydia said the family did not know they were to receive the award until their name was read at the awards ceremony. The Yons were one of seven regional finalists who traveled to Phoenix.

“It's humbling,” Lydia said the day after returning to the family farm from Arizona. “The other operations that were in contention for the award were all so good.”

The award — now in its 18th year — recognizes cattle producers who successfully combine environmental stewardship with business sense to create a more sustainable operation.

It is presented by the National Cattlemen's Foundation and is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Yons started their Saluda County farm 12 years ago with 100 cows on 100 acres. Today they manage 1,200 acres of pasture and 300 acres of crops and more than 800 brood cows, most of which are purebred Angus.

During that time the Yons implemented practices that protect the land on which they make a living.

Their environmental efforts include irrigating crops with pond water using an efficient, low-pressure watering system; managing farm ponds to encourage healthy wildlife habitats; and installing 28 water troughs and more than 55,000 feet of fencing for rotational grazing on pasture land.

Dave Petty, chairman of the Environmental Stewardship Award selection committee and 2001 national award winner, described the Yons as “everyday environmentalists.”

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

Yon Family Farms was nominated for the award by the Saluda Soil and Water Conservation District.