Esther Honig

As a reporter for Harvest Public Media, I travel throughout northern Colorado, and parts of Wyoming and Nebraska to cover agriculture and rural issues. 

I’m originally from Colorado and moved back after a nine year hiatus to work for KUNC. Previously, I spent two years reporting on the opioid epidemic in rural Ohio for the NPR affiliate in Columbus. 

I got my start in radio journalism while attending college in Bay Area, where I earned a degree in Spanish, Latin American Studies. 

Inside a small mobile home in rural Colorado, dark brown curtains are pulled tightly across the windows, locking out light from outside.

A woman who we'll call "A" lives here with her husband and three young children. We're not using her real name to protect her identity, because "A" is originally from Guatemala and undocumented. Like many people in her position, she fears an encounter with immigration officials could force her and her family to return to the country they fled nearly two years ago.

At a community center off Main Street in Fort Morgan, Colorado, 25-year-old Sitina sits near the window, fidgeting with her set of keys. Once this interview is over, she’ll race home to make dinner for her family: a husband and two young kids. She worries about whether she’ll make it to bed on time. Her Saturday shift at the Cargill meatpacking plant starts at 5 a.m.

In a basement in Pueblo, Colorado, Capt. Leroy Mora with the local sheriff's department  shuffles through the artificial tropics of an illegal marijuana grow. In this stark-white room, a cobweb of electrical wiring powers rows of blowing fans and warm grow lights. 11 marijauna plants the size of Christmas trees are fed through a hydroponic system.

Between the high cost of housing and shrinking federal funding for local organizations, many refugees resettled in Colorado find themselves stuck in chronic poverty. That’s according to new research from the University of Colorado Boulder, which studied refugee communities across the Front Range. 

Xiaoling Chen, a geography doctoral student,wanted to understand why refugees became trapped in low-wage jobs, despite the state and federal resources intended to help them succeed.   

The Trump administration has temporarily postponed plans to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants, but that hasn’t calmed fears within Colorado’s immigrant community. 

Out on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, the sound of hammers and saw blades cuts through the steady silence. A construction site hums next to a solitary cluster of nearly 150 newly built homes and 48 apartment units.

In the small town of Wiggins, where a pair of grain silos are the tallest structures for miles, the population of less than 900 hadn’t grown in over a decade. But with this new development, the town’s on track to double in size by the middle of 2020.

Early Monday morning, a bus carrying 55 refugees arrived in Denver. The group had traveled several hours from a shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the number of migrant asylum-seekers has overwhelmed local organizations and immigration authorities.

Back in 2013, Colorado lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation granting special driver’s licenses to those without documentation. But leaders in the agricultural industry, as well as immigrant rights advocates, had long insisted that the program be expanded to meet demand.   

Is the country careening towards summertime with a shortage of onions?

The National Onion Association certainly seems to think so. The Greeley, Colorado-based trade group is warning consumers the nation’s supply is about 30 percent lower than it was this time last year. The association’s vice president, Greg Yielding, said storms in the southern U.S. and Mexico drowned out crops while in the Netherlands, a top onion producer, dry conditions resulted in a smaller than usual harvest.

Last December, hemp farmers and businesses celebrated. After 82 years of heavy restrictions, Congress passed the 2018 farm bill, stating hemp should be treated more like a crop and not like its cousin plant marijuana.  

That excitement carried over into the 6th Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, a Colorado convention for the hemp industry. A record 10,000 people attended, nearly double last year’s turnout. But as investors and entrepreneurs clamored to get inside the convention center, they may have been disheartened to learn the industry is still burdened by uncertainty and legal risks.     

About 100 people gathered outside the Greeley Chamber of Commerce on Friday to protest a bill that could tighten regulations on the oil and gas industry.  

“It’s just kind of sneaky,” Weld County resident Jolene Luster said about the bill. “We don’t understand it and it’s going to affect a lot of people. And we need to make sure that it doesn’t go through.

Populations are declining in more than  one-third of rural counties across the country. Colorado’s counties are bucking the trend, thanks to a number of factors identified by researchers in, a study published earlier this month.

At his one-room apartment, 35-year-old Abul Basar made a tight fist with his right hand. As he opened his palm, his ring finger remained bent and rigid. "It's locked my finger, (it) doesn't work," he said.

Basar came to the area as a refugee in 2017 after escaping violent persecution in his former country of Burma, also known as Myanmar. He said he fled to Bangladesh and then Thailand and eventually Indonesia, where he was detained for nearly a year by immigration authorities. Today, he's relieved to be in the U.S.

According to a report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 77 workers were killed in 2017, a 5 percent decrease from 81 deaths in 2016. Roberta Smith, an occupational health program manager with the department, said the majority of deaths were related to transportation, or driving on the job.

Thornton resident Jennifer Hubby is worried about paying her family's mortgage on time.

Her wife, a former Army medic, gets a monthly housing and education stipend from her GI Bill. Hubby said it's "very unclear" what's going to happen to that income as the shutdown — now on its 20th day — drags on.

In early November 25-year-old Jose de Jesus Gallegos Alvarez mopped the wood floor of a pilates studio at The Club at Flying Horse, a private country club in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For him and the rest of the housekeeping staff, a day's work involves a lot mopping, but also window cleaning and towel folding. As winter settles in, the volume of work has diminished; summer is the peak season for the club.

For Gallegos Alvarez, it was the final week of his eight-month H-2B visa.

The morning after the highly anticipated 2018 midterms, friends Pam Whittall, Tom Moore and David Onn sit at a small table at the Linden Street Cafe in old town Fort Collins. They come here no fewer than three days a week after yoga class.

On this day, between sips of coffee, they talked about the outcomes of Tuesday’s election.

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.