Most of us take a while to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. Birke Baehr grappled with the decision, too—until he turned 11. Back in 2010, Baehr took the stage at a TEDx event in Asheville, North Carolina, where he was the youngest speaker. On stage, he regaled listeners with his story of his food awakening, which inspired him to change career paths. Although he initially dreamed of becoming a professional football player, he now wants to become an organic farmer.
"That way," he explains in the talk, "I can have a bigger impact on the world."
His talk, "What’s Wrong With Our Food System," has since been viewed by 2 million people. It outlines (in admittedly broad strokes) some of the problems with industrial, genetically modified agriculture. Simply put: We don’t know what we’re putting in our bodies.
But what’s more interesting than the speech itself—which endorses slow food and advocates for a better food education, especially among children, who are especially susceptible to cartoonish food marketing, particularly for the least healthy products—is what Baehr has gone on to do since giving it. Now 14, Baehr is a published author. He’s written a children’s book, Birke on the Farm: One Boy’s Quest for Real Food, appeared in documentaries, maintained a steady diet of speaking engagements, and continued on his path toward becoming a sustainable organic agriculturalist. He’s also visited dozens of small organic farms, and met a few of his heroes, like farmer and writer Joe Salatin. On July 4, he’ll speak at the March on Monsanto, an effort to advocate for GMO labeling.
With every speech he gives and with every social media conversation he sparks, he reminds us just how many people you can reach when you commit yourself to a cause. Just imagine what he’ll do when he gets his driver’s license.