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.

Harvest Public Media
7:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Mutton Busting: A Rodeo Tradition

Two cowboys lift a mutton busting participant onto a wooly sheep at the Greeley Stampede rodeo.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media & KUNC

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.

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Around the Nation
1:33 am
Wed May 28, 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 10:57 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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Harvest Public Media
10:06 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

While Farm Life Changes, FFA’s Blue Jacket Stays 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.
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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Agriculture
7:33 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Climate Change Could Benefit Some Invasive Plants

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.
Credit Luke Runyon / KUNC and 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 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.
 

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Health
4:14 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Colorado Loses "Least Obese" Title

January-December 2013; Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
Credit Gallup

Colorado is no longer the least obese state in the country, according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday. KUNC’s Luke Runyon reports.
 

Since 2010 Colorado has consistently topped lists as having the slimmest population in the country. Not anymore. Montana has usurped the title, where 19.6% of the population is obese, compared to Colorado’s 20.4, putting the Centennial State in second place. Mississippi has the highest level, at 35 percent.

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Local News
12:39 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Colorado Gains USDA Climate Change Research Hub

Credit Clipart

The U.S Department of Agriculture is setting up seven new research hubs across the country to help farmers adapt to climate change. And as KUNC’s Luke Runyon reports, one will be in northern Colorado.
 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says in the past few years farmers across the Midwest have grappled with epic drought, mega-blizzards and crippling heat.

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The Salt
2:10 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 10:00 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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Harvest Public Media
7:44 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Colorado Imposes Food Safety Rules On Marijuana Industry

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, CO
Credit Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

 
Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops. 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.

Marijuana, though, is still considered illegal by the federal government. The existing food safety system, which relies heavily on support from federal agencies, can’t ensure that marijuana-infused foods are safe.

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Recreational Marijuana
7:33 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Food Safety and Recreational Marijuana

Credit clipart

Colorado’s fledgling recreational marijuana industry has a new set of rules to live by. And as KUNC’s Luke Runyon reports, many of them deal with food safety.
 

Until now, products infused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, didn’t have to be tested in a lab. But manufacturers of so-called “edible marijuana products” must now test their creations for foodborne pathogens like E.Coli and salmonella, plus a test to see how potent it is.

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The Salt
1:15 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 8:00 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
12:47 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Developers Look to Farms to Sell Suburban Homes

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 KUNC and 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
7:33 am
Fri October 25, 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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Around the Nation
3:03 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 1:37 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
1:23 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 9:37 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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Flood Coverage
7:05 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Heavy Rains Help Ease Drought

Recent flood waters have left behind plenty of damage, but there is one silver lining. Rains recharged the soil, which the 2012 drought left bone dry. KUNC’s Luke Runyon has more…

While there are still pockets of dry areas in the state, the drought has been almost completely wiped out in the foothills and northeastern plains of Colorado. State climatologist Nolan Doesken says these types of weather extremes happen. Colorado may have been drenched in rain, but Doesken says that can change in a matter of months.

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Flood Coverage
8:15 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Road Repairs From Flooding Could Top Half A Billion Dollars

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner/Released

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 6:16 am

As the remaining flood survivors continue to be airlifted out of towns cut off by flooding, the focus is beginning to shift to recovery. Specifically on the very reason they have to be airlifted: roads.

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The Salt
1:05 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 11:29 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
1:02 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 5:59 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
1:27 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 2:24 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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RMCR News
4:49 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

The 'Fort Knox' of Seeds: How Safe is It?

Wheat/Clipart.

When genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations to start flying. No one knew how the unapproved wheat ended up in the ground. A flurry of finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Colorado, which housed the same strain of wheat. The facility's been cleared of wrongdoing since then, but the investigation brings up questions of how secure these seed vaults actually are. KUNC and Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon took a tour of the Colorado vault, and has this report.

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Harvest Public Media
7:35 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Young Farmers and the Obstacles They Face

Eva Teague, 31, is trying to start her own pig farm but is having trouble breaking in to the business. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

 

The American farmer is getting older. Most recent census data shows the average age is 57. And while that tells us who is farming now, it also shows who’s not. While the farming community continues to age, fewer young people are filling the ranks. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon asks the question: Do 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
2:41 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 3:53 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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