Luke Runyon

I'm a reporter with Harvest Public Media based at KUNC, covering the wide range of agricultural stories in Colorado.

I came to KUNC in March 2013, after spending about two years as a reporter with Aspen Public Radio in Aspen, Colorado.

During my time in Aspen, I was recognized by the Colorado Broadcasters Association and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. for my reporting and production work. My reports have been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

I'm the product of two farm families in central Illinois, which is where I spent most of my formative years. Before moving to Colorado I spent a year covering local and state government for Illinois Public Radio and WUIS in the state's capital. I have a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield, the same place where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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Agritourism
8:01 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

States working out kinks to keep ag tourism growing

Carol Zadrozny, owner of Z's Orchard in Palisade, Colo., has had trouble securing insurance coverage for her agritourism attractions.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Listen to Luke's story.

Colorado already draws thousands of visitors each year for skiing, hiking, beer drinking and, most recently, marijuana sampling. In 2012, those visitors spent more than $16 billion in the state. Tourism officials want more and they’re looking to do it by bringing well-educated “traveling foodies” to the state.

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Rodeo Tradition
8:01 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Mutton Busting A Rodeo Tradition For Rough And Tumble Kids

Two cowboys lift a mutton busting participant onto a wooly sheep at the Greeley (Colo.) Stampede rodeo.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Listen to Luke's story.

A furry beast, a brave rider and a roaring crowd make up the list of ingredients for the Western rodeo tradition known as “mutton busting.” Think of it as bull-riding, but for 6-year-olds, and the furry beast is actually a wooly sheep.

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Selling the "Farm Experience"
8:01 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Agritourism a growing opportunity on the farm

Blake Bohlender attended a three-day camp at Laughing Buck Farm near Fort Collins, Colo.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

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Around the Nation
10:33 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Industrial Hemp Could Take Root, If Legal Seeds Weren't So Scarce

The hemp seedlings in Ben Holmes' warehouse in Lafayette, Colo., will be ready for harvest in about 50 days. Holmes says that during the peak growing season, the little sprouts can shoot up several inches each day.
Luke Runyon KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 7:57 am

The most recent farm bill is allowing a handful of farmers across the country to put hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, in the ground.

The bill allows small-scale experimentation with the plant. But despite the new law, many farmers say they're getting mixed messages from the federal government.

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Food Industry
8:01 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Flour milling merger moves forward

Ardent Mills would control about a third of the American flour milling market.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Federal regulators Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for two of the country’s largest flour milling companies to merge.

Food giants ConAgra and Cargill said last year they wanted to put their flour mills under one roof in a new company called Ardent Mills. But a chorus of antitrust watchdogs said the deal would further consolidate an already concentrated industry.

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Legal for 16 years
9:06 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Canada feeding the American appetite for hemp

Hemp seed products are now widely available in leading grocery and warehouse food stores thanks to vertically integrated producers such as Manitoba Harvest that handles the product from plants in the field to ready-to-eat products on the store shelf.
Quentin Hope / HPPR

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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Still a murky field
8:01 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Hemp growing returns after 44 year ban

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A handful of farmers are set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.

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Controlled substance or cash crop?
7:23 pm
Sun May 11, 2014

A hemp growing “revolution” coming to agriculture?

Front cover of Doug Fine's recently released book predicting an agricultural revolution from hemp growing.
Credit http://dougfine.com/books/hemp-bound/

Hear Luke's interview with author Doug Fine

The farm bill passed earlier this year is big news for advocates of hemp. New rules differentiate industrial hemp from its cousin, marijuana, and pave the way for research on the plant.  Hemp is still considered a controlled substance by federal regulators. But some states are giving farmers the chance to experiment.

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Foot and mouth fears
8:00 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Ranchers Wringing Hands Over Possible Brazilian Beef Imports

Gyr cattle in Brazil
Credit Wikipedia

Hear the audio version on Luke's story

Sharon Harvat drives a blue pick-up truck through a field of several hundred pregnant heifers on her property outside Scottsbluff in western Nebraska and notes, “On a warm day they’ll lay out flat like that...”.

Harvat and her husband John run their cattle here in the Nebraska panhandle during the winter and take them back to the mountains in northern Colorado when the calves are born. Harvat says, when she heard about a proposal to open up beef trade with Brazil, she felt a pit in her stomach.  “On an operation like ours, where we travel a lot with our cattle, that would probably come to an abrupt halt if there was an outbreak.”

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Proposed Federal rule change
8:00 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

No more brewery leftovers for cattle?

A new federal food safety rule would classify breweries as animal food manufacturers because many breweries sell or donate leftover grains to ranchers.
Credit Flickr Commons / Niels Linneberg

Few people connect craft breweries with cattle feed. But passing along the spent grains from the brewing process, like barley and wheat, to livestock ranchers is a common practice. Although now, that relationship could be in jeopardy.

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FFA thriving amid decline
8:00 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Fewer farms kids but record Future Farmers

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The blue corduroy jacket worn by high school students in FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is an icon of rural life. To the average city dweller the jacket is a vestige of dwindling, isolated farm culture, as fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms. The numbers tell a different story however. In spite of that demographic shift, a record number of kids are donning blue jackets this year.

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Food Safety
8:01 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Unpacking lessons from Colorado's cantaloupe listeria scare

Cantaloupe farmers across the country took a hit after the 2011 outbreak, which caused melon consumption to drop.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Listen to Luke's report.

When Colorado cantaloupe laden with the deadly pathogen listeria killed more than 30 people in 2011, shockwaves rippled throughout the food industry. The outbreak made one thing clear: huge cracks exist in the systems meant to keep our food safe to eat. Denver Post reporters Michael Booth and Jennifer Brown set out to explore those conflicts within food safety in their new book Eating Dangerously.

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Irrigation
2:00 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Recovering from flooding, Colorado farmers hope for enough water

Construction workers rebuild a section of Highland Ditch Company’s irrigation infrastructure that was washed out in flooding near Lyons, Colorado.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Listen to Luke's report.

When September’s flood waters came down from the Front Range foothills, they destroyed homes and wrecked office parks. The water ruined roads, bridges and highways. The floods destroyed farms and crops, and unleashed tremendous pressure on aging irrigation infrastructure, some of which dated back to the late 1800s.

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Food Security
7:56 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Could our food supply be a target for terrorists?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Listen to Luke's report.

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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A contuning challenge for ranchers
8:00 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

Invasive weeds may look forward to climate change

Dr. Dana Blumenthal and colleagues explain their invasive weed research during a tour of The Prairie Heating and Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (PHACE) Experiment in Wyoming. In this test plot higher temperature and richer CO2 conditions are being simulated to study their effects on invasive weed growth.
Credit USDA: Prairie Heating and Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (PHACE) Experiment

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be richer with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

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USDA response to climate change
8:00 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Research units to help farmers respond to climate change

Looking to help farmers adapt to climate change, the U.S Department of Agriculture is setting up seven new research hubs, including a handful that will cover the Great Plains and Midwest.

The new research centers, anchored in different regions, are tasked with charting how climate change poses risks to farming, ranching and forestry. Then they are to devise strategies to adapt.

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The Salt
11:10 am
Sun February 2, 2014

Marijuana-Laced Treats Leave Colorado Jonesing For Food-Safety Rules

Truffles are among the many foods infused with THC – the chemical in marijuana that gives you a high — already for sale in Colorado.
Luke Runyon/KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 7:00 am

Where there's pot, there's pot brownies. But how do you make sure those high-inducing sweets are safe to eat?

Colorado regulators are wrestling with that question now that the state has legalized recreational marijuana. From sodas and truffles to granola bars and butter, food products infused with THC – the chemical in marijuana that gives you a high — are already for sale.

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Wheat Bread
8:00 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

Quest to make a whole grain bread kids will eat

Food companies want to capitalize on the growing market of white bread fans who want to eat whole wheat. A new variety of wheat makes that easier.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A new wheat variety may have cracked the code to marry the fluffiness of white bread with whole grain nutrition.

For a long time, American bread makers have been in a bind. Many consumers like the texture and taste of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

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The Salt
10:15 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 5:00 am

When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.

But now, there's a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Forget the golf course, build the subdivision around a farm

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

For decades, housing developments in the suburbs have come complete with golf courses, tennis courts, strip malls and swimming pools. But make way for the new subdivision amenity: the specialty farm.

A new model for suburban development is springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement. Farms, complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, are serving as a way to entice potential buyers to settle in a new subdivision.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:17 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Push for GMO labeling comes to Colorado

Protesters in Denver rallied this past summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado could be the next battleground state in the debate over labeling rules for genetically-modified foods. Activists are trying to get the issue in front of voters in 2014.

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Agriculture & Local Foods
5:46 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Interview with Joel Salatin: Local food evangelist

Joel Salatin on his farm in Virginia
Credit Creative Commons

Listen as Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyan speaks with Joe Salatin.

Joel Salatin is one of the rock stars of the local food movement. He’s written books, appeared in documentaries and scheduled speaking engagements nationwide. Among foodies, he’s a celebrity.

He’s also a vocal critic of industrialized agriculture. Salatin criticizes the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification in crops, and hormones and antibiotics in livestock.

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Harvest Public Media field note
7:52 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Guilty plea to criminal charges has implications for the entire food industry

Credit News21 – National/Flickr

The Colorado farmers who distributed cantaloupes infected with listeria two years ago pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located outside Holly, Colo., was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide.

The outbreak was the deadliest in more than 20 years. Cantaloupes processed in the summer of 2011 at Jensen Farms near the Kansas border were laden with Listeria. It’s a pathogen infamous for its high mortality rate.

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Around the Nation
12:03 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Ranchers Wonder If U.S. Sheep Industry Has Bottomed Out

The changing landscape of of agriculture is leaving many sheep farms in the dust. Farms are larger and technology makes crops more economically attractive and sheep herds less.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Meida/KUNC

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 10:37 am

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the U.S. has plummeted by half. The sheep industry has actually been declining since the late 1940s, when it hit its peak.

The sharp drop in production has left ranchers to wonder, "When are we going to hit the bottom?"

Some sheep are raised for their wool, others primarily for food. Consumption of both products — lamb meat and wool — have been declining in the U.S.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:32 pm
Sun October 20, 2013

Beyond Community Gardens to Edible Parks

Stephanie Syson of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute looks at plans for a proposed food forest in Basalt, Colo.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Community gardens dole out small plots of land and encourage people with limited access to fresh produce to grow their own. Now, there’s a new twist on that model springing up across the country: edible food forests.

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The Salt
10:23 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Can Millet Take On Quinoa? First, It'll Need A Makeover

This millet field outside Nunn, Colo., is nearing harvest time, when the grain turns from green to a golden color.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 6:37 am

Walk through a health food store and you'll find amaranth, sorghum, quinoa — heritage grains that have been staples around the world for generations. Americans are just discovering them.

There's another age-old grain that grows right here on the Great Plains: millet.

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Harvest Public Media story
7:40 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Is millet the next trendy grain?

Millet, long an ingredient in birdfeed, could be the next food to capitalize on the heritage grain trend.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

   

Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.

But there’s another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.

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The Salt
10:05 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Young Farmers Break The Bank Before They Get To The Field

Eva Teague, 31, is trying to start her own pig farm in Colorado but is running into financial obstacles typical of many young farmers trying to break into the business.
Luke Runyon KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 8:29 am

As the average age of the American farmer has crept up to 60, fewer young people are filling in the ranks behind them. That's prompted some to ask if young people even want to farm anymore.

The quick answer is yes, just not in the same numbers as they used to. And surveys indicate many of them don't want to farm in conventional ways.

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The Salt
10:02 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Colorado Vault Is Fort Knox For The World's Seeds

Dave Dierig, research leader at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, stands among the ceiling-high shelves that hold the 600,000 seed packets in this cold storage vault.
Grace Hood KUNC

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 2:59 am

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn't take long for accusations to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.

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The Salt
10:27 pm
Sun August 4, 2013

Ecologists Turn To Planned Grazing To Revive Grassland Soil

Fox Ranch, outside Yuma County, Colo., is a 14,000-acre nature preserve and working commercial cattle ranch. The ranch is used by the Nature Conservancy to put into practice its panned grazing technique.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 11:24 am

The world's soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn't happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil.

In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle.

Conventional wisdom tells you that if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that's not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

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