Harvest Public Media

'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.

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.

Mutton Busting: A Rodeo Tradition

Jul 24, 2014
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.

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.
 

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.
 

Colorado Imposes Food Safety Rules On Marijuana Industry

Jan 29, 2014
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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.