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The Village People: Grown and Gathered

Words Jessica Gadd
Images supplied

You might know Matt and Lentil for their community-building and nature-connecting projects The Produce Van and The Flower Exchange, or their first book, Grown and Gathered. But did you know they’ve got a new book, The Village? Well, they do – and lucky for us they took time out to tell us all about it!

Tell us about your particular philosophy on food and living sustainably.

Whole food ingredients, seasonal, regional, and best when shared. Our food is inspired by the seasons (what we are harvesting from the garden or what is seasonally available in the wild), and by our village – sharing with them, celebrating with them, and experiencing life with them.

Does living a sustainable lifestyle come from the way you were raised, or is it something you have developed yourself?

We both grew up with an inkling of what the earth can provide. Matt’s family owns a winery and Lentil’s dad grew palm trees (palm trees!), but this is definitely something we’ve been drawn to later in life, mainly inspired by travels to simple agricultural communities that were just so happy living their simple life, tied to nature.

What is the premise for your new book The Village?

The village is something we all have – several different communities, often coexisting, which we are tied to by common interests, values, heritage/family, or simply location.

The village is something that traditionally has been at the core of human existence – it is togetherness. And it is this togetherness that is the foundation for us all, giving our life meaning: that is what makes us happy and content.

Our first book was full of so much practical knowledge. But afterwards we felt we’d left out the most important thing – that the key is to do all these wonderful, traditional things with your people! That’s what we wanted to bring to the fore with this book.

How does the Australian idea of a ‘village’ differ from what what you have seen in other parts of the world?

The concept of the village is universal, whether in urban Australia, a hillside in Italy, or a forest in Vietnam. It’s not about what it looks like, it’s about the function it performs – people being surrounded by a support network of loving community. A group of people, your people, to share life with, share skills with, share meals with. The literal, geographical village is where it all began, but you can just as well have a thriving village spread across a modern city. Don’t get us wrong though, we do love us an isolated Italian hillside 🙂

How can people get started creating a village of their own?

We all have at least the seed of a village in our life, because in the modern world we are all surrounded by people, almost constantly. The key is honouring that fact, and connecting with those people: building upon the relationships you already have, and taking the time to have conversations and genuine human interactions with new people, from the local grocer to your taxi driver. Unplug and reconnect to the humans all around you!

Besides where you live, what is another part of Victoria that you love to spend time in?

The King Valley. We’ve often remarked that if it was a little closer to our people we’d move there in a heartbeat. It’s got that European vibe, plus amazing bush, clean rivers, isolation. Wine. No complaints.

What are you planting in the garden at the moment?

Spring is here, so almost everything! First focus is raising all our little summer seedlings so it’s all about tray after tray of tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, climbing beans, zucchini, pumpkins and corn. We love this time of year in the garden – it holds so much promise!

You can get your copy of The Village here.

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