Plant/Life: Matt & Lentil Purbrick

Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered are the cutest pair of farmers around. They grow vegetables and flowers on their farm in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne, and every Saturday they drive down to the big smoke to distribute their bounty of vegetables, flowers, bread, milk and cheese (thanks to Peaches the cow), selling out every week!

Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered, with their dog Pepper, at their farm in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne. Production: The Design Files.
A stand of gum trees frame the Grown & Gathered farm. Production: The Design Files
Striking silver cardoon foliage (a close relative of artichoke). Production: The Design Files.

I first met Matt and Lentil in July this year. My friend Jardine Hansen and I were heading south from Sydney to Melbourne on a botanical roadtrip. Yeah, that’s just what Planthunters do, you know.  We had planned on dropping in on their farm for a quick hello, and ended up staying the night. We had never even met them before! Not only did they put us up for the night, we had a wonderful time, eating, drinking and chatting about plants, life, and stuff. I am telling this entirely unrelated story because it’s a great illustration of the kind of people Matt and Lentil are. They are warm, genuine, generous humans. They are so wholesome it should be kinda sickening! Except somehow it’s not. Thank heavens.

Anyway, back to the farm… Matt and Lentil have lived there for around a year now. They renovated the house in winter last year (more on that later this week!), installed a couple of pigs in the paddock to prepare the soil, and started planting the beds last October.

Since then Grown & Gathered has gone from strength to strength, which is a testament to the incredible work ethic of this industrious pair, and their open minded approach to farming. Matt and Lentil have spent the last year fine-tuning their experimental growing techniques to get the best out of their little patch of earth. They’re obviously doing something right!

‘I’ve been growing stuff for four or five years now and have never had a garden that’s so bountiful’ says Matt. ‘ What comes out of this block of land just blows our minds.’

Matt and Lentil are conceptual farmers. They explore new ways of doing things, and their passion for genuine sustainability is clear, in the produce they grow, they way they live, and the way they run their business.

For example, they grow lots of flowers – but they don’t sell them. Instead, they trade. Why?  As Lentil explains – ‘For a while Matt and I were selling vegetables and flowers side-by-side. With vegetables, people were aware that vegetables have seasons, that organic is better, and that it’s best to try to source locally and directly from the farmer.  But with flowers, few people had ever challenged where they might be from, or how they might be grown’.

Flowers are about beauty and joy and colour and emotion. Money can’t buy that. We want to create community, share abundance and make conversation instead. So, we only exchange our flowers for something other than money’

They are also passionate about waste. Every Saturday they drive down to Melbourne with a van full of produce, returning with a van full of food scraps for composting. They pickup green waste from the restaurants they work with – Pope Joan and Auction Rooms, and customers are encouraged to bring their compostable stuff to the van when they pick up their vegetables.

‘This is our version of closed loop farming’ says Lentil. ‘We take the goods down, bring the scraps back, compost them, and put them into the soil to grow more vegetables. It’s an entire system. We don’t bring any new inputs into the farm.’

With Grown & Gathered, Matt and Lentil have built way more than a bountiful vegetable and flower farm. They have built an example of living authentically and passionately in a genuinely sustainable way. There’s plenty of buzz around words like local/organic/sustainable/foraged these days, and often without much consideration or knowledge of the entire picture. These two are the real deal. There is no bandwagon in sight; they’re just doing it.

This story was produced in collaboration with The Design Files.

Lentil picking flowers. Production: The Design Files
Lentil picking ranunculus flowers. Production: The Design Files
Matt in the garden. Production: The Design Files
The track leading down to the waterhole just below Matt and Lentil’s house. Production: The Design Files