The happiest healthiest people in the world are those who live in simple agricultural communities where life is shared.
It’s a way of life that Matt Purbrick and his partner Lentil enjoy in regional Victoria and extoll through their business, Grown and Gathered.
Interview: Linda Ross Pictures: Shantanu Starick
Matt and Lentil at home. Photo - Shantanu Starick
Where are you living now?
Having lived on a 3000-acre property 10 minutes away from the nearest town we decided to move to closer to a town with like-minded people who are interested
in growing their own food. We are now on a smaller block, near friends and family, near the lovely community of Castlemaine. It’s been a great shift
and very rewarding: people just drop in all the time.
What does connecting with your local community mean?
Well it means you don’t have to DO everything! We are not in a position to grow all our own food; we rely on people who do things better or do things that
we don’t and we trade produce and work together as a village.
Your new book The Village, explores how this works in Italy.
Yes, going back to Italy and reconnecting with my Italian heritage really solidified everything for us. I noticed that people are so happy in these simple
agricultural societies and we wanted to bring this into our life – a relationship with nature and the importance of community.
What kind of everyday routines did you notice?
Community was the umbrella above it all. No one was alone, everyone was together – sitting, talking, cooking and eating together, working in a field together.
The food was simple, real and whole.
How can we build those connections in multi-million-person cities?
Instead of the hectic, individualistic lifestyle, spend a little more time with people outdoors. Do one role and do it well and lean on others for their
skills too. Specialise in the thing you really love. The book’s garden section is about village gardens and how productive they can be.
You also have a section of quite unique recipes in the book. Who does the recipe development, you or Lentil?
I’m sure it’s half-half. Part of the fun of writing the book was exploring the ingredients. The recipes are inspired by my family in the north of Italy
and friends in Sardinia in the south of Italy. Like the stale maize cake we were served– the most amazing cake in the world! We tried to replicate
it and ended up developing a cake that never goes stale and keeps fresh in the fridge for two weeks! It’s a beautiful thing.
Try one of Lentil’s recipes on page 72, find more in the new Grown & Gathered book, The Village: Good food, gardening and nourishing traditions to feed your village or connect with Matt and Lentil on Instagram @grownandgathered