agriculture

The City of Thornton is one of many growing suburbs of Denver, Colo. On a day without much traffic, it's only a 20-minute commute into the state capitol, and its new homes with big yards make it an attractive bedroom community. Nearly 130,000 people live there, and the population is expected to keep booming.

A spell of cool, wet weather has our gardeners dealing with mud as best they can!

Jill, Lance & Lulu discuss a variety of issues, (including the reasons behinds Lulu deciding to shave her cat!)

Rick called with questions about growing potatoes in whiskey barrels.

Discussing weeds, Lulu recommends a book: Weeds of the West  by Tom D. Whitson, Larry C. Burrill, et al.

The population of northern Colorado is booming, and we're not just talking about people here.

The number of dairy cows is now higher than ever.

At the northern edge of the state, Weld and Larimer counties are already home to high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region's numerous feedlots, which send the animals to several nearby slaughterhouses. But an expansion of a cheese factory owned by dairy giant Leprino Foods will require even more cows.

Most food, if we trace it back far enough, began as a seed. And the business of supplying those seeds to farmers has been transformed over the past half-century. Small-town companies have given way to global giants.

A new round of industry consolidation is now underway. Multibillion-dollar mergers are in progress, or under discussion, that could put more than half of global seed sales in the hands of three companies.

If there's anyone who can trace the course of this transformation, and explain what drove it, it's Ed Robinson.

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

"I do remember my mom asking, 'Are you sure that's what you want to do?' " Fletcher recalls. She knew the work would be tough — she grew up milking cows every day. But it's what she wanted.

So she and her husband's family collaborated to start Edgewood Creamery outside of Springfield, Mo., last August. They recently opened a storefront on the farm selling their milk and cheese.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

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A bill that would allow people to collect rain that falls from their rooftops is hung up in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, after the chair said he wasn't comfortable with the measure. It's not clear when the committee will vote on it.

The same thing happened during the 2015 legislative session when the rain barrel bill vote was delayed. While the bill eventually cleared the committee over the objections of the Republican chair, it failed on the final day of the session when time ran out.

"I didn't plan on today being Groundhog Day, I anticipated that the bill would pass," said state Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), sponsor of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf].

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  • DMEA’s victory in buying local power is challenged by Tri-State
  • Investigative report on last year’s plane crash is released
  • Car chase over Monarch Pass ends in a police shooting
  • Connect for Health Colorado reports record health insurance enrollment
  • Western Slope college applies for stricter admissions standards
  • Colorado House passes bill extending statue of limitation on sexual assault
  • The number of farms in America drops, and the size increases  

For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you'll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.

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  • Norwood mayor resigns, leaves vacancy
  • Delta County Commissioners are ready to consider changes to zoning and planning
  • A look at how farmers are reducing energy use  

  •  New service allows mentally distressed youth to text for help
  • Plans are in the works to develop defunct CSU agricultural research site
  • Pipe bursts during Ouray Ice Climbing Festival
  • Majority of voters don’t want state control of federal lands
  • Clean Water Act changes vetoes by President Obama
Galley Ranch
Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust

A grant will help preserve a ranch within the Uncompahgre National Forest.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust received $436,000 to conserve 705 acres of the Galley Ranch. The money comes from Great Outdoors Colorado. 

It's the time of the year when Katie Abrams sees her Fort Collins neighbors pulling up with real trees tied to car roofs. She feels small pangs of jealousy when friends post woodsy pictures in flannel shirts, cutting down the perfect spruce.

“It all sounds really nice,” Abrams says. “And then once you go out and do it I can just imagine all the steps involved.”

So instead she pulls out the fake tree from the garage. A mentality that terrifies American Christmas tree growers.

Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill those jobs. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

  • Delta announces city manager hire
  • BLM gates road closed to OHV travel near Lake City
  • Report finds Colorado ‘toddling’ towards early childhood literacy
  • There are jobs in ag, there’s just not enough new grads to fill ‘em

Suze Smith

Late-season gardening tips from garden gurus Lance Swigart & Lulu Volckhausen, hosted by Jill Spears

"Colorful Colorado" may one day need to be referred to as "Crowded Colorado," given the number of people expected to soon move here.

Weld County's population is expected to double to half-a-million – and El Paso County will still be the largest county. It's not just the Front Range; A Rocky Mountain PBS I-News analysis of data from the state demographer and the U.S. Census Bureau shows seven of the 10 fastest growing counties will be on the Western Slope, including Eagle, Garfield and Routt.

The numbers show an estimated 7.8 million people will call Colorado home by 2040. All that growth will take a toll on the state's infrastructure as well as water and other natural resources.

Amber Kleinman / iSeeChange

Harvest is done on the Western Slope.  All the cherries, peaches,  apples, and pears have been picked and sold, and now frost and snow is settled in.  Over at iseechange.org, several people were keeping track of the long growing season and the turn to winter.  

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  • Longer growing seasons could mean good news and bad news for growers

When The Alpaca Bubble Burst, Breeders Paid The Price

Nov 9, 2015

Known for their calm temperaments and soft fleece, alpacas looked like the next hot thing to backyard farmers. The market was frenetic, with some top of the line animals selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the bubble burst, leaving thousands of alpaca breeders with near-worthless herds. Today, craigslist posts across the country advertise “herd liquidations” and going out of business deals on alpacas, some selling for as low as a dollar.

It’s just one more chapter in a long line of agricultural speculative bubbles that have roped in investors throughout history, throwing money at everything from emus to chinchillas to Berkshire pigs to Dutch tulips, only to find themselves in financial ruin after it bursts.

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  • State Senator Kerry Donovan details legislative priorities
  • The alpaca bubble burst and backyard farmers are still picking up the pieces

  •  USDA declares Delta County a Disaster Area, along with Montrose, Gunnison, and Mesa
  • Lawmakers try to  incentivize protecting homes from wildfires
  • Amtrak line secure with more federal funding

It's fall. Time to pick apples. For some of us, that's casual recreation, a leisurely stroll through picturesque orchards.

For tens of thousands of people, though, it's a paycheck. They drive hundreds of miles for the apple harvest in central Washington, western Michigan, the shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, and Adams County, Pa.

"The truth is, every apple that you see in the supermarket is picked by hand," says Philip Baugher, who runs a fruit tree nursery in Adams County.

More and more schools are trying to serve meals with food that was grown nearby. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just released some statistics documenting the trend.

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  • A look back at how the weather affected this year’s hay market

Nowadays consumers are more willing to pay extra for a rack of ribs if it's produced nearby. A local bone-in ribeye, on average, costs about $1 more than a conventional steak. A pound of local sliced bacon has a $2 upcharge, according to retail reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What are we paying for when we pay more for local meat? Lots of things. But small producers say one key issue that's holding them back, and driving up costs, is the strict rules when it comes to how they slaughter their animals.

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  • Burns planned for slash piles near Lake City
  • Ballots sent out today, voting machines tested
  • Entrepreneurs aim to make insects compete with meat

  • Former Delta chief of police received $50K severance package
  • Local organizations hope to create business and resource center in Delta
  • Governor heads aboard on trade mission
  • Demonstration plot help farmers optimizes, prepare for drought
  • Nonprofit announces $20 million prize for CO2 innovation

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a final version of updated rules intended to keep farmworkers from being poisoned by pesticides. The previous "worker protection standard" for farms has been in effect since 1992.

Montrose County in western Colorado is an agricultural community. Everything from apples to zucchini is grown there. However, not everyone knows what’s in season, how they can access it or how to prepare it.

The Local Farmacy Rx program is trying to change that. Through it low-income families learn how to eat healthy locally. 

Colorado's South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle. Massive reservoirs quench the region's thirst, with farm fields generally first in line. Wildlife? It's often last.

A small win-win though is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole. It's a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks — then gives the water back, in time for summer crops.

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