Fort Morgan

Esther Honig

On a summer evening, police Sgt. Anthony Gagliano patrols the long, open streets of Fort Morgan, Colorado. He’s lived here for the last 16 years, almost as long as he’s been on the force. There’s one thing he knows sets apart this rural city of about 11,000: the diversity.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

The federal commission in charge of enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws found a Colorado meatpacking plant violated the rights of its Muslim workers during a dispute over prayer breaks.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found reasonable cause that Cargill Meat Solutions and labor union Teamsters Local No. 455 violated the rights of Somali workers when it fired nearly 150 of them for failing to show up to work after a walk-out at its Fort Morgan, Colo. beef plant in late 2015.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Citizenship applications were on the rise across the country in 2016. And while there’s no definitive data for the first part of 2017, there are small indications that same trend could be continuing this year.

Many immigrants in the U.S. are worried that changes to immigration policy pushed by the Trump administration could impact their families -- and that’s true in rural America, too. In some rural communities, immigrants and refugees are taking steps to go from green card holders to fully-fledged citizens.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

The bell signals the start of second period. A trio of young women take seats in English class, their attention quickly drifting outside the walls of the high school in Fort Morgan, Colorado, eager to talk about what they’re working toward.

“I want to become an FBI [agent],” says freshman Mariam Mohammed. “It’s my dream.”

On her left, her sister, Mutaas Mohammed, with a clay-colored hijab wrapped around her face and dark purple lipstick, says she wants to study fashion design. The girls’ friend, Isra Mohamud, a senior this year, chimes in: She’s looking at a nursing program at the local community college.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A war is brewing over what you pour on your breakfast cereal.

Dairy farmers say the makers of plant-based milks – like almond milk, soy milk and a long list of other varieties – are stealing away their customers and deceiving consumers. And they’d like the federal government to back them up.

At its heart, the fight boils down to the definition and use of one simple word: milk.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

It’s no secret Northern Colorado is growing. Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties are welcoming thousands of new residents each year. People are flocking to the area, and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region’s substantive feeding operations. But an expansion of a Leprino Foods-owned cheese factory in Greeley will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

The sometimes tense conversation about religious accommodation in the workplace is playing out in rural Colorado.

In Fort Morgan, 150 Muslim workers were fired in late 2015 after a dispute over prayer breaks at a Cargill meat packing plant.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

After firing 150 workers from its Fort Morgan meatpacking plant, executives with Cargill’s beef division say they are open to rehiring some of those employees. The company announced this change to its rehire policy — shortening the amount of time to be eligible to reapply for jobs after termination from 6 months to 30 days — following a dispute regarding prayer accommodations.

Poncie Rutsch / KUNC

Fort Morgan is a town of about 11,000 people tucked into the farmland of northeastern Colorado. Among its residents are people of Latino and European ancestry, and more recent immigrants, including refugees from eastern Africa.

“Our little town -- it's an anomaly,” says Nick Ng, the soccer coach at Fort Morgan High School. “We have all these people from other places in the world and we have one thing in common: soccer.”

Poncie Rutsch / KUNC

Leasing an apartment or home has never been an easy process, but imagine navigating a househunt with limited English skills. Every showing requires a translator, or really, anytime you have to communicate with a landlord; for example, when something breaks.

Miscommunications are easy, which is one reason why One Morgan County, a nonprofit in Fort Morgan, Colorado, hosted a meeting to help untangle the rights and responsibilities of tenants.

“There’s issues on both sides of this,” says executive director Michaela Holdridge. “And we really figured this would be a good time to discuss this, and say ‘OK, what is your understanding of your rights as a tenant?’”