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.

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.

beer
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.

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.
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Food terrorism, part 1: A terror attack on the U.S. food supply could be a disaster for the country and its economy. Regulators are proposing new rules designed to mitigate the chance of an attack, but with few documented incidents of malicious food contamination, is food terrorism fact or fiction?

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

dok1/Flickr

The days of record high corn prices are gone, at least for now, and they’re only going to continue their decline, according to projections released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (PDF)

You can pin part of the blame on the 2012 drought, when corn hit an all-time high of $8.31 per bushel. The dry conditions made corn a limited commodity.

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.

jayneadd/Flickr

Talk to any corn farmer and he or she will likely lament the dropping price of corn. But corn growers are not alone. Farmers who grow wheat are beginning to feel the same pinch.

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.

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.

Luke Runyon/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.

Flickr / Natalie Maynor

Walk into a grocery store these days and you’re likely to find whole sections devoted to organic foods. The organic label gives insight into how the food was produced, usually without the aid of synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and food additives.

cantaloupe
News21 / flickr

Two Colorado farmers admitted to causing the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in a decade Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located in Colorado, was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide and sickened seven in Missouri.

In front of a federal judge, brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen pleaded guilty for the listeria outbreak linked back to their cantaloupe farm. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for January. 

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.

An outbreak of salmonella linked to raw chicken is spreading across the country. But, the partial government shutdown could make it tougher to track.

More than 270 people have been sickened across 18 states. But when you call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety information office, you hear a recorded message saying: “Hello, you have reached the congressional and public affairs staff. We are not in the office at this time. We are on furlough due a lapse in federal government funding.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.

But there’s another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.

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.

This is an 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.

Amy Konishi says when her obituary is written it’ll read, “All she knew was work.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

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

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.

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.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

For this edition of Field Notes, Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyon spoke with Allan Savory, an activist and environmentalist who created a grazing practice known as “holistic management.”

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

While the farming community continues to age fewer young people are filling the ranks, prompting 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.

Courtesy of glutenfreewilltravel.com

Try walking down a grocery aisle or opening a restaurant menu without stumbling upon foods with claims that they’re “gluten-free.”

Up until now, you basically had to take the manufacturer or chef at their word. There was no widely accepted definition of what makes a food “gluten-free.”

That changed last week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its new standard for food producers that want to label their goods as being without gluten.

Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

Walk down a grocery store aisle or open a restaurant menu.

Gluten-free labels are everywhere.

Gluten is a starchy protein compound found in products made from wheat, barley and rye. It’s what gives dough a chewy texture. But up until this point, there has been little oversight on what qualifies as gluten-free and what doesn’t.

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.

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.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm RootsHarvest 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.

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.

artizone/Flickr

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.

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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