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.

Photo by Stephanie Paige Ogburn

Food companies the world over are paying close attention to the groundswell of support for food transparency, the “know where your food comes from” movement.

JBS, the largest meat producer in the world, is beginning to take notice as well.

But executives with JBS USA, the North American arm of its Brazilian parent company, at the same time acknowledge that the very nature of their business is grisly, gory and sometimes unpalatable.

The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved.

The grow room at Medical MJ Supply in Fort Collins, Colo., has all the trappings of a modern marijuana cultivation facility: glowing yellow lights, plastic irrigation tubes, and rows of knee-high cannabis plants.

"We're seeing a crop that's probably in it third or fourth week," says Nick Dice, the owner.

Courtesy of Mercy for Animals

A Morgan County, Colorado, dairy farm is at the center of an animal abuse investigation following the release of a video showing workers punching and stabbing dairy cattle.

Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone has yet to press criminal charges against workers shown in the videos, but says he’s working with the farm’s owners Jim and Marie Goedert to locate current and former employees. In a statement, the Goederts say they’ve taken disciplinary action against the employees involved.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Once a regular dining option, a mix of cultural and economic factors pushed lamb off the American dinner table. To put the meat back on the menu, ranchers and retailers are being encouraged to reach out to a more diverse set of consumers, specifically American Muslims and Latinos.

Chipotle Goes GMO-Free

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Mr.TinDC/Creative Commons

Chipotle Mexican Grill said Monday that it completed a task that had remained elusive for years: removing all food products derived from genetically engineered crops from its menu.

The Denver-based company is the first national restaurant chain to make the change.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Nate Storey’s greenhouse in west Laramie, Wyoming is packed with vegetables growing in long, upright plastic towers.

Storey’s set-up is an urban farmer’s dream: the waste from fish tanks fertilizes the crops through plastic tubing that drips water onto the vertical garden. The greenhouse is small, but produces a lot of food.

Like a proud father he shows off bok choy, butter lettuce and spinach.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

A battle is brewing in the organic food industry.

The largest trade association for organic farmers, marketers and processors wants growers to help pay for promotional campaigns, using a decades-old funding model that paid for iconic ads like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner.” But deciding how to spread the organic message is dividing the sector into factions.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media file photo

Call it “peak farmers market.” Or maybe the plateau of “know your farmer.”

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When Jon Slutsky’s dairy farm in Wellington, Colo. is fully staffed, it’s a moment to celebrate.

Sonja Salzburg for Harvest Public Media

Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it’s not the only food or drink made by a religious order.

The average American farmer is a white man in his late 50s. Or at least, that's who's in charge of the farm, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But the number of female-run farms has tripled since the 1970s, to nearly 14 percent in 2012. And if you dig a little deeper, you'll find women are showing up in new roles. But because of the way farm businesses are structured, women's work often isn't included in those USDA counts.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

More cities want to take eating local food from just a hip trend to an economic generator, but as in many grassroots movements, there can be some growing pains along the way. 

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media file photo

After spending years pushing for immigration reform, the agriculture sector has mixed reviews on changes to the immigration system that President Obama announced Thursday.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When farmer Sondra Pierce had her first child, she decided to forgo daycare. During harvest on her sugar beet farm in rural Boulder County, Colo., she’d buckle him up in the seat right next to her.

Copyright 2014 KUNC-FM. To see more, visit http://kunc.org.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The showing starts inside an empty office building, the kind you’d see in any humdrum workplace sitcom, stripped of its cubicles and ceiling tiles, leaving just a bare, dusty shell.

Jason Thomas with Avalon Realty Advisors, a commercial real estate firm that deals with the marijuana industry’s entrepreneurs, shows off the building’s features: a fully operational HVAC system, fire sprinklers, heavy duty warehouse doors, equipped with locks.

It’s a blank slate for a marijuana grower, ready to be outfitted with thousands of lights and complex water delivery systems.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

Northwestern Colorado has a rich heritage of raising sheep – either for their meat or for wool.

Proposed changes to the Clean Water Act have some Midwest farmers worried that, if enacted, they could be subject to additional regulation. 

Ben Hamilton walks down the salad dressing aisle at his neighborhood grocery store in west Denver. The human resources consultant usually seeks out organic options and scans nutrition information.

"I am a label reader. I think a lot of people read labels and really are curious to know what is in our food supply," he says. But Hamilton says he wants more information, specifically whether the food he buys includes ingredients derived from genetically modified crops, or GMOs.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Local food is no longer just a novelty. Farmers markets are growing nationwide and farms that sell directly to consumers brought in $1.3 billion in 2012, up eight percent from just five years earlier. Despite the demand, making local food work in some places is decidedly more difficult than others. Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one of those places.

Problem number one is infrastructure.

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use earlier this year, it also opened the door for food products infused with the psychoactive ingredient, THC, to anyone over the age of 21. That means bakers and food companies now have to ensure new products aren't contaminated with foodborne pathogens. And they have to make sure they're not falling into the hands of children or are too potent to eat.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Life as a gay man in the U.S. has changed in the past decade — the law and cultural attitudes toward homosexuality have shifted. And those greater social and legal freedoms have also changed how some gay men choose to express their masculinity — and their femininity.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Insects can be a great source of protein, and in many parts of the world, people gobble them up.

But here in the United States, a certain “ick factor” has kept consumers from eating crickets, locusts and mealworms. To combat the ickiness and convert skeptical consumers, bug-food advocates are trying a specific marketing tactic: be clever and cute.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

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.

Mutton busting has its roots in Colorado, where it was first introduced in the 1980s at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The crowd-pleaser is now a favorite at many rodeos and county fairs across the Midwest and Great Plains.

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.

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.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that containhemp 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.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

A handful of farmers is 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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