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.

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Federal Rule Could Dry Up Brewer-Rancher Relationship

A new federal food safety rule would classify breweries as animal food manufacturers because many breweries sell or donate leftover grains to ranchers.
Ben Harris-Roxas/Flickr

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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Farm Life and FFA Have Changed, But the Iconic Jacket Remains the Same

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:53 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Vilsack: Trade Deal Negotiations Ongoing

U. S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, shown here speaking in Ames last summer, is urging patience on a trans-Pacific trade deal.
Amy Mayer/IPR

 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is telling Midwest farmers to sit tight while his office hammers out a major trade deal with a group of Asian countries, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Agricultural exports are already at record highs and the export market is crucial for many Midwest farmers, particularly those who plant soybeans, wheat and corn. But USDA officials say the U.S. could be doing even more with the help of the TPP.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Climate change could benefit some weeds

Ellen Nelson has battled invasive plants that out-compete native grasses on her grass-fed beef ranch near Bellvue, Colo. Some climate studies suggest that fight will worsen in the coming decades.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

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 more rich 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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The Salt
3:10 pm
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 11:00 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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Colorado Creates Food Safety System for Marijuana Products

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops this year. Aside from just legalizing the purchase of smoke-able marijuana, it also means pot brownies have the potential to be big business. Food products infused with marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, are available in stores across the state.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon December 30, 2013

The new wheat behind whole grain white bread

Scott Haley, the leader of Colorado State University’s wheat breeding program and the researcher who developed the Snowmass wheat variety, in his lab.
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
2:15 am
Tue December 17, 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 9:00 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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Around the Nation
4:03 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 2:37 pm

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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The Salt
2:23 am
Wed October 2, 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 10:37 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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:27 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Prison dairy serves up buffalo milk

The Four Mile Correctional Center in Cañon City, Colo ., is home to what may well be the country’s largest water buffalo dairy.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Past the razor-wire fences, beyond huge metal gates, behind thick walls, you’ll find one of the most unique dairies in the country. The Four Mile Correctional Center in Cañon City, Colo., is home to what could very well be the country’s largest herd of domesticated water buffalo – buffalo milked for their rich, frothy milk.

At the Four Mile dairy, inmates run the milking parlor, not a farmer in overalls. And it’s not black and white cows dotting the landscape, instead it’s water buffalo with big, curved horns.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Growing more with less water

Tom Trout, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who focuses on efficient and effective irrigation methods, checks sunflowers on a USDA research plot in Weld County, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The future of agriculture across the Great Plains hinges on water. Without it, nothing can grow.

Climate models and population growth paint a pretty bleak picture for water availability a few decades from now. If farmers want to stay in business, they have to figure out how to do more with less. Enter: super efficient irrigation systems.

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The Salt
2:05 am
Wed August 21, 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 12:29 pm

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
2:02 am
Tue August 13, 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 6:59 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
2:27 am
Mon August 5, 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 3:24 pm

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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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue July 30, 2013

How secure is the Fort Knox of 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

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there 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.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Can planned grazing revive cropland soil?

William Burnidge, left, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, is working with rancher Nathan Andrews to test out a different method of grazing.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

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, 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.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu July 4, 2013

My Farm Roots: A cowboy at heart

Once an average suburban Colorado kid, Trent Johnson spent years ranching and now owns storied cowboy outfitter Greeley Hat Works.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

This is the fourth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Running a CSA can be a tricky business

Michael Baute farms three acres in Fort Collins, Colo. One-third of Spring Kite Farms goes to the farm’s CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, clients.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture model is praised. CSAs, as they’re commonly known, are often considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat.

The model is simple: Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But running a CSA can bring with it some tricky business decisions.

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The Salt
3:41 am
Wed June 12, 2013

Why You'll Be Paying More For Beef All This Year

With U.S. cattle herds at their lowest levels since the 1950s and corn feed prices on the rise, beef prices are on the rise.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 4:53 am

If you've experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.

Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country's beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds — some even liquidated all their cattle — which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.

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