Have you ever eaten food fresh off a tree or from a garden? Does most of your food arrive at home in paper or plastic containers? Through technology and progress we have created a really convenient food system for a large portion of the world. It’s nice being able to pick up food just about anywhere we go instead of lugging around a lunch bag and snacks all day. But what is this convenience really costing us and what is with all those ingredients listed on a simple package of bread? What does “natural” or “flavor” actually stand for in the ingredient list? Is it safe to eat food that has been genetically modified or sprayed with toxic chemicals?
These are all questions that we should be asking ourselves, the grocery stores we shop at, and the farmers who grow our food. These are questions that even an 8 year old can think about. Birke Baehr was just that age when he learned that what he was eating wasn’t necessarily good for him. So he took action and educated himself, only to learn that he was being deceived, that really we all are, about our food. He wrote a book, “Birke on the Farm” to educate his peers about what they were really eating, has interned on farms, and given one of the most viewed TED talks online. All of this and he isn’t even old enough to vote. So what are you waiting for? Start finding answers to those questions today.
What inspired you to educate others about sustainable agriculture? Really what sparked my interest was when I first saw something online about mercury in high fructose corn syrup when I was 8 years old. From there I began to research the food “system” and found out about genetically modified organisms, pesticides, herbicides and other things that I found out were harmful to me and the environment in general. I became particularly inspired by renowned farmer Joel Salatin and his common sense approach to farming after learning about him when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I guess what inspired me to want to educate others was that I felt really deceived by food companies as a kid and felt like I wanted other kids to know about all of the things I had learned.
What steps did you take to start this particular journey? Research, research, research. The more I looked into the food “system” the farther down the rabbit hole I went. While doing this I discovered other choices like small local organic farmers, I visited their farms and got to experience what real food tasted and looked like.
What was or are the hardest obstacle(s) to overcome in getting your message to the masses? I think the hardest obstacle has been being a kid and getting people to understand that a kid has the ability to get the knowledge of what IS going on with the food system. A lot of people say that I was influenced by my parents or some organization, but the truth of the matter is, I did the research on my own and influenced my family on the kind of food we have ended up purchasing and consuming.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far in relation to your work? Mainly I’m proud that I’ve been getting my message out there. There are a lot of things that I’ve done that I have liked. I am proud of my book, “Birke on The Farm” and many of the talks that I have given in public.
How can people get involved either through your work or in their own communities? I recommend that people start attending their local farmers markets and making connections with local food producers. I tell them to ask a lot of questions about the farmers’ practices including how their animals are raised, are they feeding GMO’s, do they use chemical fertilizers or compost and organic inputs, do they spray for pests and weeds with chemicals, these types of things. Then I suggest that they start to transfer their food dollars to these farmers, visit their farms, invite friends and family over for a local, seasonal, organic farm to table meal. I encourage people to connect to their food in this way, then begin to educate themselves about GMO’s and the industrialized food system.
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This interview is from a book that includes 10 other amazing people who are creating positive change. You can read the full book and buy a copy for your school at Bookemon.com. Buy the e-book for 99 Cents on Amazon.com.