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.

Victor / flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the Department of Agriculture shows rural parts of the country are still struggling more than eight years after the Great Recession. 

While the economy has improved marginally in rural areas since the recession, cities continue to do better. The rural employment rate still hasn’t returned to its pre-2008 level, and economic growth has been slow: An average rural worker made significantly less last year than an urban one.

Blackburnphoto / Flickr, creative commons

Harvest is underway on farms across the Midwest and Great Plains. But with prices in the tank for the region’s most important crops, many farmers are just hoping to break even this year.

The last time things looked so bleak for corn and wheat growers and cattle ranchers was during the 1980s farm crisis. Low crop prices and high debt resulted in a prolonged economic slump in farm country.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Contaminated drinking water isn’t just a problem for Flint, Michigan. Many towns and cities across the Midwest and Great Plains face pollution seeping into their water supplies. A big part of the problem: farming and ranching.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The hardest part of starting a new food business should be perfecting the secret recipe. For many aspiring cooks though, the tough times come when searching for a space to legally make and sell their food. Commercial kitchen space, with stainless steel counters and industrial appliances, can be hard to come by. But as Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports, one tech startup is trying to fix that.

Kathy Lee meticulously pours strawberry rhubarb jam into small Mason jars. The jam is steaming, just off the stove.

On the worst day of Greta Horner's life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

Ralph Horner, or Ed as his family calls him, should've been pulling in the driveway any minute that morning in June 2014, home from his overnight shift as a maintenance employee at the beef plant in Greeley, Colorado. It's owned by JBS, the world's largest meatpacker, with its North American headquarters a short drive from the Horners' home.

Chickens aren't traditional pets. But with chicken coops springing up in more and more urban and suburban backyards, some owners take just as much pride in their poultry as they do in their dogs or cats — so much so that they're primping and preening them for beauty contests.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Few things are more valuable to a farmer in the arid West than irrigation water. Without it, the land turns back into its natural state: dry, dusty plains. If a fast-growing city is your neighbor, then your water holds even more value.

Farm families in Western states like California and Colorado are increasingly under pressure to sell their water. It’s been coined “buy and dry,” as water is diverted from farm fields and instead used to fill pipes in condos and subdivisions.

Brian McGuirk/Flickr Creative Commons

Low prices for grain, milk and beef are causing many Midwest farmers and ranchers to worry about paying their bills this year. 

With prices for some farm staples in the tank, many farmers will be lucky to break even this year.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, is worried that lean times hit farmers harder than other business owners. “If you’re having trouble as a farmer or rancher, it’s not just your job that you’re having trouble with, it’s your whole livelihood, it’s your home," Johnson says.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

Men who work as farmers take their own lives at a rate seven times the national average, according to a new study.

Overall suicide rates have climbed more than 20 percent since the year 2000. According to a preliminary study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farmers, along with fishermen and foresters, make up the group most likely to die by suicide.

AgriLife Today, flickr Creative Commons

It will soon be a lot easier to fly a drone if you’re a filmmaker, real estate developer - or a farmer. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has more.

Until now you needed to have a pilot’s license and go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to legally get a drone in the sky. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration has streamlined the process, and lowered the bar to use a drone to survey farm fields or real estate.

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