Winter Water for Migrating Ducks

Oct 8, 2015
Shelley Schlender / RMCR

Colorado's South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle.  Massive reservoirs quench the region's thirst, with farm fields generally first in line.  Wildlife?  It's often last. But a small win-win is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole.  It's a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks — then gives the water back, in time for summer crops. 

Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor.

The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs.

Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages.

Whole Foods says it will stop selling products made by a Colorado prison labor program after a protest against the practice at one of its stores in Texas.  The company says the products should be out of its stores by April 2016, if not sooner. Whole Foods says it has sold tilapia and goat cheese produced through the Colorado Correctional Industries program in Canon City since at least 2011.

Prison reform advocates have likened the program to indentured servitude, citing low wages. 

Friday Newscast, 9/25/15, 5:32 PM

Sep 25, 2015

Newscast for Friday, September 25, 2015, 5:32 PM:

Thursday Newscast, 9/17/15, 6:04 PM

Sep 17, 2015

Newscast for Thursday, September 17, 2015, 6:04 PM:

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The Colorado State Fair is in full swing in Pueblo. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to check out the annual celebration of the state's agriculture and more. They'll have plenty to do from spinning on rides at the carnival to eating festival foods to watching young Coloradans show off their livestock and other 4H projects.  KRCC's Shanna Lewis captured some of the sights and sounds from the fair, starting in the swine barn.

Andrea Chalfin

The Colorado State Fair is full swing in Pueblo this week, and early numbers show a possible increase in turnout over last year.

The Fair saw an average of 45,000 people a day over opening weekend, a 2% increase in attendance says Chris Wiseman, Colorado State Fair General Manager.  Wiseman says he's optimistic about the coming weekend, but adds anything could happen.

Monday Newscast, 8/24/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 24, 2015

Newscast for Monday, August 24, 2015, 5:32 PM:

Friday Newscast, 8/21/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 21, 2015

Newscast for Friday, August 21, 2015, 5:32 PM:

  • Construction is underway in Pueblo County large solar array that will generate enough electricity to power around 30,000 homes.
  • Colorado’s apple orchards are bearing less fruit this year.

Friday Newscast, 8/14/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 14, 2015

Newscast for Friday, 8/14/15, 5:32 PM:

  • Officials in Colorado have reopened the Animas River to boating.
  • A lieutenant colonel at Fort Carson faces a court-martial on charges of viewing child pornography on a government computer while in Afghanistan.
  • A recent report from Colorado State University says if Great Plains farmers adopt more conservation practices, their carbon emissions could be drastically reduced.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is introducing a new tool that aims to help farmers and consumers with local pricing.

Shoppers and sellers at local markets can now find average prices for items sold at farmers markets and through farm-to-school programs on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s website.

The new tool will aid producers in helping them decide how to price thei items, says Glenda Mostek, marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, adding that it will also help buyers.

It’s May in Rocky Mountain National Park, but on a mountainside 10,829 feet above sea level, snow is falling. It’s pelting Jim Cheatham, a biologist with the National Park Service. Shrugging off the cold, Cheatham seizes a teachable moment. This snow, he said, holds more than just water.

“Chances are it’s carrying the excess nitrogen we’re talking about,” mused Cheatham.

For the past eight years, the biologist has spent most of his time thinking about how nitrogen pollution is changing the park’s forests, wildflowers, and alpine lakes. He’s also been looking for a way to stop it.

A new smart phone app for the Pikes Peak region is looking to connect local food producers with consumers. KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.

The app is called LocalFood and will allow users to find, purchase, or sell products that are grown or produced within a 67-mile radius of Colorado Springs.

'Prayer And Work' Go Hand In Hand At This Colorado Ranch

Jan 22, 2015

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. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.

Just five miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border you’ll find one of these places. Idyllic red farm buildings sit in the shadow of the main abbey, all tucked in a stony valley. At the Abbey of St. Walburga, cattle, water buffalo and llamas graze on grass under the watchful eye of Benedictine nuns.

Humans have been growing hemp for centuries. Hemp-based foods have taken off recently. So have lotions and soaps that use hemp oil. Studies underway now are examining how different compounds in cannabis could be used as medicine. There’s hope its chemical compounds could hold keys to medical treatments for Parkinson’s disease and childhood epilepsy.

Scientists studying industrial hemp say the plant holds a tremendous amount of promise. But to unlock its potential there’s very basic scientific research to be done.

The Palmer Land Trust has received funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, to conserve a large working ranch just east of Pueblo.  

KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar has more.

The conservation group says the 25,000-acre BX Ranch south of Boone is one of the largest working ranches in Pueblo County.

Palmer Land Trust Executive Director Rebecca Jewett says this funding will help preserve that history.

Farming the Ogallala

Nov 20, 2014
Shelley Schlender

Most Colorado cities and farms get water from snowmelt in the Rockies. That’s not the case in Northeastern Colorado. This food-producing powerhouse depends on an ancient, underground reservoir called the Ogallala.

Ever since the Ice Ages, the Ogallala’s been slowly accumulating water. Modern farmers, though, pump so much water that this “timeless” aquifer is starting to run out. Someday up ahead, Northeast Colorado may have to curtail some crops, and some farm towns might become ghost towns.

Voters in Colorado will decide whether or not they want the state to require labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. The 2014 ballot measure highlights a much larger national conversation about the safety and prevalence of genetically modified foods.

If passed, food companies and farmers would need to affix on a food label the text: "Produced with genetic engineering" if the product contains certain genetically modified crops and their derived oils and sugars that end up in processed foods. Those in favor of the proposal, Proposition 105, claim consumers have a right to the information. Those opposed say it amounts to a fear campaign.


Farmers looking for help in paying for organic certifications have just a few weeks left to take advantage of a reimbursement program. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports. 

The program is part of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2013, which was put into place by the USDA. It aims to assist farmers seeking organic certification by reimbursing up to 75% or $750.00 of the process per category, including crops and livestock.

People living in many parts of rural Colorado still don’t have access to high speed Internet. It’s a problem for schools and businesses, and in eastern Colorado it is making it harder for farmers to take full advantage of the latest technology even as state lawmakers passed legislation to try and even the playing field.

Parts of Southeast Colorado are experiencing a longer period of drought than the dry times that occurred during the Dust Bowl.

According to Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, the past three years and eight months have been the driest stretch ever recorded for some parts of the state, including Rocky Ford, La Junta and Ordway.

"It was drier than the worst consecutive drought period of the 30s and of the 50s," said Doesken.

CSU Extension

Colorado's climate puts it among the top 10 states for sunflower production, but many of the state's farmers have cut back on planting sunflowers. Last year Colorado’s sunflower production dropped to a fraction of its high in 1999. Now, growers are considering how much they're willing to pay to help reverse the trend. Shanna Lewis reports farmers are voting on whether to double the fee on sunflowers.


Sunflower growers currently pay three-cents per hundred weight to support marketing and research on their crop. 

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.

Urban Agriculture in the Pikes Peak Climate

Mar 26, 2014
Michelle Mercer / KRCC

The backyard farming movement continues to grow in Colorado Springs, but exactly what kind of farming makes sense in our challenging climate is a complicated business. The harsh, high altitude sun, thin topsoil, short growing season, and especially, the limited water supply present obstacles for even the most dedicated urban homesteaders.

Climate Change Could Benefit Some Invasive Plants

Mar 18, 2014
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.


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.

Cantaloupe Farmers Sentenced to Probation

Jan 28, 2014

Cantaloupe farmers in eastern Colorado responsible for a deadly outbreak of listeria two years ago were sentenced today after pleading guilty to six misdemeanor charges in October. KRCC’s Nat Stein has more.

A federal magistrate in Denver sentenced brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen to five years of probation, starting with six months of home detention. Each brother also must pay $150,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

Cantaloupe Farmers Seek Probation

Jan 17, 2014

Two Colorado cantaloupe farmers are asking a federal judge for probation rather than jail time.  Two years ago, a deadly listeria outbreak was traced back to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in southeastern Colorado. Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen own the farm and in October pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. These federal charges can carry penalties of up to six years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

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.

The Shoshone Power Plant: "A Big Dog on the River"

Dec 9, 2013
Maeve Conran

A complex series of agreements govern the distribution of water throughout the state.  Along the Colorado River, farms, cities & towns, and the recreation industry are all big players.  But everyone takes a backseat to a tiny hydroelectric plant that’s over one hundred years old.  It’s the Shoshone Generating Station, and it plays a critical role on the Upper Colorado.