A few months ago, I was asked to do a TED talk. As most of you will already know, these talks focus on ‘ideas worth spreading,’ to use their words. Originally, the speakers came from the technology, entertainment and design fields, but through the TED talks they have expanded to include organisations and individuals focused on a social agenda.

It was obviously exciting, and more than a little flattering to be invited, but the prospect of preparing a TED talk was a little intimidating. It was made absolutely clear to me that I had 18 minutes and no more to get my message across. To do this effectively, it was suggested that one should memorise the entire talk and keep the delivery sharp and succinct.

Someone once said to me that because all public speakers are actually storytellers, the most important thing to remember is to be authentic and to speak from inside yourself. This is all very well in theory. In practice, it’s not so easy if one is required to memorise one’s talk, (which covers a lot of ground) and deliver it standing in front of an enormous time clock which the audience can’t see, but that is ticking away towards zero, and which you ignore at your peril!

I decided to open my talk by telling the story of my relationship with Bwlchwernen, my farm, and the insights I’ve derived during my 40 years of farming on this beautiful hill in West Wales. My concluding message and the idea that I wanted to inspire people with, was the potential of each individual citizen to play a role in building more sustainable food systems for future generations.

This core message, which I’m more and more convinced is the key to bringing about change on a big scale, involves each one of us committing in our role as individual consumers, to use our purchasing power to buy food with a better and more sustainable story. This will bring about the change that is needed.

If one follows this prescription, it is not always easy to fill a shopping basket, especially if you go to your local supermarket, where much of the identity and the story behind the food is obscured through the anonymity of a supermarket label. But therein lies the key to the changes we need. Be both discerning and demanding. Insist on knowing the origin of your food, and take your custom elsewhere if the true story is hidden from you. Make choices that support sustainability in our food systems, where animals are treated well, the environment is cared for, and your money is kept local. Your food buying power is worth, I am told, on average about £2,000 per citizen per year. Added-up, that’s a lot of money, and the accumulative spend of every individual can make a huge difference. Become an agent of change. That’s my ‘idea worth spreading.’

Photograph by Benjamin J Borley

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