Mon February 23, 2015

Meet Don Brown, Colorado's New Agriculture Commissioner

Colorado's farms and ranches produce more than $7 billion in goods each year.
Credit Jessica Reeder / Flickr - Creative Commons

Colorado has a new agriculture commissioner: Don Brown, a Yuma County farmer who raises beef cattle and grows corn. Governor John Hickenlooper tapped Brown for the position following the retirement of former commissioner John Salazar.

Read more


Mon February 16, 2015

Colorado Tech Start Ups Bet The Farm On Agricultural Drones

Farmers want to use drones to scope out problem spots in crops fields or check in on livestock.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A highly anticipated batch of federal laws governing the use of drones could change the regulatory landscape and lead to an explosion in drone use by farmers.

Farmers see drones as a way to get a birds-eye view of their fields to find problem patches with crops. That information can allow farmers to be more precise with fertilizers and pesticides and, ultimately, save them money. But getting them in the sky without running afoul of federal regulation is proving to be a challenge.

Commercial use of drones is still widely banned in the U.S., though some companies have secured exemptions. Other farmers have gone rogue, flying drones over their property without all the proper permissions, daring federal regulators to put a stop to it. But the new federal rules due out later this year are expected to usher in a new era of farm machinery.

Read more


Mon February 9, 2015

Can The Pot Economy Replace Pueblo's Lost Blue Collar Jobs?

Remnants of Pueblo's once-enormous steel industry sit on the outskirts of town.
Stephanie Paige Ogburn KUNC

Drive through the outskirts of Pueblo, Colorado, and you'll see the remnants of a steel economy -- giant, empty brick buildings with towering smokestacks and parking lots with crumbling asphalt.

The southern Colorado town has a well-known industrial history -- its nickname, Steel City, says it all. But since 1982, when the steel market crashed, the area's economy has been more precarious, tied to the ebbs and flows of manufacturing industries like the Vestas windmill facility. Pueblo's third largest employer, after the school district and an area medical center, is Walmart, which isn't exactly full of high-wage jobs.

Now, there's a new industry in town, marijuana growing and processing. Whether you're a construction worker, a realtor, or a businessman looking to invest in the marijuana economy, chances are you believe your region's economic fortune is turning -- because of weed.

Read more


Thu February 5, 2015

Corn Farming Boosts The Global Carbon Cycle

Crops in the Midwest take in and give off so much carbon that the impact can be seen across the northern hemisphere.
Credit Courtesy USDA NRCS South Dakota

Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath.

It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere.

Read more


Wed February 4, 2015

Peak Farmers Market? That Might Not Be A Bad Thing

Local farmers want to find customers outside of the usual farmers' markets and farm stands.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

After more than a decade of explosive growth in the local food economy, the most visible portion of food sales within that sector has seen a slowdown. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the growth of sales of local food at farmers markets, farm stands and through CSA models has lost momentum.

Even the rate of growth in the number of farmers markets nationwide has slowed in recent years after several years of rapid growth, rising just 1.5 percent from 2013 to 2014.

That’s not necessarily bad news for farmers. In fact, it could mean the entire local food movement is growing up.

Read more