Eleven-year-old Birke Baehr is in my kitchen today, talking about how he has been inspired to ditch his dreams of the NFL for aspirations of becoming an organic farmer.
At the age of 9, Baehr started studying sustainable- and organic-farming practices. He visited and worked at Full Moon Farms Co-op, in Athens, GA; Sequatchie Cove Farm, in Sequatchie, TN; Sapelo Farms, in Brunswick, GA; and the organic gardens of The Hostel in the Forest, in Brunswick, GA. He’s attended a full-day seminar with farmer and author Joel Salatin at The Farm in Summertown, TN, and Salatin has continued to mentor him.
Baehr says he wants to continue his education about farming, and expects to become an organic farmer. He likes teaching others about what is wrong with the industrialized food system, and about sustainable and organic farming and food. In August, Baehr was the youngest presenter at the TEDxNextGenerationAsheville event, where he gave a talk titled “What’s Wrong with Our Food ‘System’”
Why is living organic important to you?
I am very conscious about my health, and I have studied how conventional methods can hurt you. I also like to support small, local, chemical-free farms.
One day my mom was on the Internet and I saw something about mercury in high-fructose corn syrup. It concerned me so I began to research the subject. The more I dug into it, the more I found. Then I saw films like Food Inc. and met Joel Salatin. I convinced my parents to look at all of the stuff I discovered, and soon my family was off conventional food and into slow food on a regular basis.
What’s your favorite food?
That’s a hard question, really. I like all kinds of food, especially greens (kale, collards, and turnip and mustard greens.)
What magazine, website, book, TV show, CD, or product are you most obsessed with right now?
Right now I am reading The Barefoot Farmer, by Jeff Poppen.
What got you so interested in speaking out about chemical-free farming?
Because the majority of the public is so blind about our food. I think more people should know where food comes from.
When I got the chance to do TEDxNext Generation Asheville, it was a great opportunity to speak from my heart about food.
Where did you learn about chemical-free farming?
The Internet and different websites. That got me interested in farmers like Joel Salatin.
What are your next plans for helping to solve this big food problem?
I would like to get the chance to speak in more places, to help make more people aware of what’s really going on.