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.

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The Salt
2:51 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Women's Work Is Never Done On The Farm, And Sometimes Never Counted

Owner Mary Kraft at Badger Creek Dairy outside Fort Morgan, Colo.
Luke Runyon KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 10:45 am

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.

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Harvest Public Media
10:20 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Women Have Always Been Farmers, Now They’re Being Counted

The co-owner of a dairy near Fort Morgan, Colo., Mary Kraft says the skills needed to be a successful farmer have changed in recent years.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

When farmer Sondra Pierce had her first child, she decided to forgo daycare.

“Soon as I had my son, because I had my son very early, I would put his car seat in the tractor and he would ride with me,” Pierce says.

During harvest on her sugar beet farm in rural Boulder County, Colo., she’d buckle him up in the seat right next to her.

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Agriculture
4:45 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Ag Industry Calls For More Immigration Reform

Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

In the debate over immigration reform, farm and ranch groups have been among those calling for change the loudest, and most frequently. But after President Obama announced changes to the immigration system, the response from the agriculture industry so far has been mixed.

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Agriculture
7:52 am
Mon October 27, 2014

In The Midwest, Yarn Goes Local, Too

Lorrae Moon of Yampa Valley Fiberworks outside Craig, Colo., coils alpaca fiber into a neat stack.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Northwestern Colorado has a rich heritage of raising sheep – either for their meat or for wool. But for decades the sheep herd has been slipping in numbers, both nationally and in Colorado, often outcompeted by countries like New Zealand and Australia.

Where there’s been a resurgence, though, has been in local, niche markets. Some sheep ranchers have taken advantage of the local food movement to sell to customers at farmers markets and through community supported agriculture models.   

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The Salt
3:59 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Voters Will Get Their Say On GMO Labeling In Colorado And Oregon

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMO food products. This fall, Colorado and Oregon will be the latest states to put GMO labeling on the ballot.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 1:24 pm

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.

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Harvest Public Media
9:30 am
Mon October 6, 2014

No Matter How Colorado Votes, GMO Labeling Debate Far From Over

Ingredients containing sugar from genetically engineered beets would have to be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering” if a proposed Colorado ballot measure is approved by voters.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

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 to food a label that reads, "Produced with genetic engineering" if the product contains certain genetically modified crops and their derived oils and sugars that end up in processed foods.

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Harvest Public Media
9:22 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Choices For Students Can Cut School Food Waste

Gloria Restrepo, a teacher’s assistant at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., helps students choose their lunch.
Credit 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.

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Agriculture
8:13 am
Thu September 18, 2014

U.S. Pesticide Levels Drop But Still Threaten Aquatic Life

Pesticide pollution in American streams has dropped over the last 20 years according to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, but scientists say aquatic life is still at risk.

Changes in regulation and the development of less toxic herbicides and insecticides have reduced the risk pesticide pollution poses to humans. However, the pesticide levels in some regions were high enough to cause harm to plants and animals that live in streams.

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Climate, Space Create Challenges For Local Food

Josh Kilbane runs Yampa Valley Farms outside Steamboat Springs, Colo.
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.

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The Salt
5:39 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Colorado's Pot Brownies Now Come With Instructions

Edibles available at LoDo Wellness Center, a retail marijuana and medical marijuana dispensary and grow facility in downtown Denver.
Matthew Staver Landov

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 3:09 pm

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.

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Harvest Public Media
8:17 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Marijuana Industry Faces Food Safety Test

Organic Alternatives Manager Maka Kalaí holds a card with cannabis safety tips. The cards were developed by the Cannabis Business Alliance and are handed out with every purchase at the Fort Collins, Colo., store.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use earlier this year, it also opened up the sale of food products infused with the drug to anyone over the age of 21. That means a whole set of bakers and food companies have to ensure their products aren’t contaminated with foodborne pathogens, and that they’re not falling in to the hands of children or too potent to eat.

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Men In America
3:43 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

In Changing America, Gay Masculinity Has 'Many Different Shades'

The Colorado Rush, a gay rugby team in Denver, at practice. "I've always thought of myself as ... the rugby player that happens to be gay," says Skyler Meyer. "I never want to be the gay man who happens to play rugby."
Luke Runyon KUNC

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 7:09 pm

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.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Farmers On The Prairie Work Through Modern Day Dust Bowl

Farmer John Schweiser, 80, has had to take shelter from recent dust storms. He also lived through the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
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.”

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Harvest Public Media
8:34 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Mutton Busting A Rodeo Tradition For Rough And Tumble Kids

Two cowboys lift a mutton busting participant onto a wooly sheep at the Greeley (Colo.) Stampede rodeo.
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.

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Harvest Public Media
9:23 am
Wed July 2, 2014

My Farm Roots: Smells Like Home

Growing up in Nebraska, Kari Williams spent many vacations visiting her family’s farms.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Most family vacations are remembered for endless car rides, packed tourist beaches and a string of poorly decorated hotel rooms.

But not former Nebraskan and current Coloradan Kari Williams. Her family vacation memories center on smells of cow manure, adventures on horseback and roosters with bad attitudes on farms in central Nebraska.

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Harvest Public Media
9:43 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Agritourism A Growing Opportunity On The Farm

Many states have been making it easier to run agritourism operations by passing laws limiting farmers’ liability.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

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Around the Nation
2:33 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 11:57 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
7:40 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Flour Milling Merger Moves Forward

Ardent Mills would control about a third of the American flour milling market.
Credit Wikimedia / CC

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.

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Harvest Public Media
9:21 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Could Hemp Be An 'Agricultural Revolution'?

These small hemp plant seedlings at Centennial Seeds’ warehouse in Lafayette, Colo., should grow into stalks more than 10-feet-high in about 50 days.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The farm bill passed earlier this year is big news for advocates of hemp. The legislation differentiates industrial hemp from its cousin, marijuana, and paves the way for research across the country on the plant.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Canada Jonesing For A Piece Of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp 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.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Now Appearing: Hemp, For First Time In Decades

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 A handful of farmers are 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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Harvest Public Media
9:25 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Six Cool Maps From The Farm Census

Rural pockets of the country still lack internet connectivity, the agricultural census shows.

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:52 pm

Remember that scene from the 1979 movie The Jerk where Steve Martin’s character leaps with glee over the delivery of new phone books? That same sequence plays out every five years when the U.S. Department of Agriculture drops its agricultural census and ag data nerds everywhere rejoice.

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Harvest Public Media
8:08 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Brazil Beef Imports Too Risky, Farmers Worry

The U.S. hasn’t had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in more than 80 years. In Brazil, the latest recorded outbreak was in 2006, though it occurred in an area that would not be allowed to export to the U.S. under the proposed rule.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to green light a proposal that would allow imports of fresh beef from certain sections of Brazil, despite the South American country’s history of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious pathogen that cripples cattle.

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Harvest Public Media
8:48 am
Thu April 10, 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.
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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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorists?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

  It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Harvest Public Media
8:18 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Climate Change Could Be Good News For 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 / 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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Harvest Public Media
8:15 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Farmland Real Estate 'Bubble' May Be Ready To Pop

The so-called farmland real estate bubble appears to be starting to deflate. After years of steep property values, a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows the high times may be coming to an end.

Since 2011, the price for a plot of a farmland across the Midwest has been growing at breakneck speed. Most of that has been due to the same trajectory in the price of major commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Now, with crop prices slipping, farmers are set to bring in less money. Money they could be using to buy or rent more land.

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Harvest Public Media
8:14 am
Thu February 6, 2014

USDA Will Set Up Hubs To Help Farmers Adapt To Climate Change

The U.S Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it plans to set up seven new research hubs across the country to help farmers adapt to climate change.

In the past few years, farmers across the Midwest have grappled with epic drought, mega-blizzards and crippling heat.

“The combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing and it will have its impact,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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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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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Colorado Creates Food Safety System To Regulate Marijuana Industry

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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