Matt Purbrick and his wife Lentil are the couple behind the popular Australian lifestyle blog Grown & Gathered. They live on an organic farm, trade flowers for their needs and are in New Zealand to talk about sustainable living.

1. Some scientists have said it's too late to save the planet. What would you say to them?

That's such a weird attitude. There's so much hope for the planet, we just need for people to take responsibility. And if those scientists could live the way we live, they would do so regardless. I read this great quote by some old medieval philosopher. He was hoeing his garden and someone walked past and said "what would you do if the world was going to end tomorrow?" and he turns and he goes "I'd finish hoeing my garden".

2. Do you shop at the supermarket for anything?

No. We grow over 500 varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers. We hunt rabbits and ducks and raise meat. We get eggs from our chickens. We milk our own cows and make cheeses, cream, butter, yoghurt. We make our own wine. We fish a lot of carp which is a massive pest in Australia and everyone hates it but we learned how to prepare it and it's amazing. We bake bread - gluten-free sourdough because Lentil can't eat wheat. We make fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, pickles, chutneys, sauces. Toilet paper we get in bulk from Who Gives a Crap - they give half their profits to WaterAid.

Advertisement

3. What do you give each other for Christmas and birthdays?

Cuddles. Or we go out for dinner. We have great relationships with restaurants and cafes in Melbourne so when we go out we get spoiled. We're very isolated where we live but we're super-connected.

4. You live waste-free. What about sewage?

Sewage is totally not waste. If we could we'd be putting it on the garden, but we can't legally do that. We have a septic tank that looks after itself.

5. You and Lentil grow and trade organic veges and flowers - how does that work?

We go to Melbourne every week with a van full of veges and flowers. We put a lot of love into the flowers and we try and trade for something that has a lot of love in it. We've got a year's supply of traditionally smoked and cured bacon from these beautiful pigs that our friends raise. For smaller posies you get all kinds of stuff: a bone for our dog, a CD, a book, movie tickets, a massage. It's a beautiful conversation starter and it gets people thinking about what is abundant in their lives. Some people are like "oh I've got nothing to trade" and then you find out they're a physiotherapist or an accountant or that their nana knits the most amazing socks.

6. What's your favourite flower?

Ranunculus. They're so female. So lacy and layered and voluptuous. I never grew flowers, ever. The only flowers in my garden were vegetables that had gone to flower. Lentil brought all that.

7. Did you have a hippie upbringing?

No! It was conventional. Everything came from a packet. I think mum had me on formula from when I was like 6 months old. I'm half Italian, my Nonna and Nonno came over from Italy. Nonna's food was mega, it was so good, but mum never learned to cook good hearty Italian food. My old man ran a winery but he was never a farmer as such.

8. What were your school years like?

I went to boarding school. It was a very private boys' school, very exposed to society folk and the antithesis of what felt right to me. The kids that end up in those schools come from a lot of different cultures, but everyone was loaded, basically. There were only a few who were interesting. I don't have any friends from then. I enjoyed the teachers and had a few close friends but a lot of people I was like "you guys are just wankers".

9. You've said you came back from overseas changed. What did you learn on your travels?

Everywhere I experienced the same thing over and over again. The happiest people had the least - everywhere. People carry on about how impoverished they are here or there or how war-torn this area is, but everyone is just stoked to be alive, these little kids are running around playing games. It would be naive to say that there's no structure around their lives, but it's a bit wilder. I travelled overland from Vietnam to Israel in six months. I took one flight but the rest was like trains, buses, walking, riding, whatever. Just moving every day, I went up through China and central Asia, Iran, the Middle East, went down to Africa for a few months, Europe, India and Nepal. Everywhere it was the same, everyone was super-happy, living with nothing.

10. Where do you live now?

We live on my family's winery. It's like 3000 acres and Lentil and I have a one-acre garden. We renovated one of the old cottages. Tahbilk is a big winery, one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Australia, a bit of an institution. The old man runs it and my sister, uncle and auntie are all sort of on the board - it's a big company, it's like the antithesis of what Lentil and I do, at the moment. Dad's a pretty open guy but he's a businessman.

11. How hard do you work?

Last night I was bottling a spiced Indian chutney until midnight, then I got up at 5 to catch a plane. We just do what we feel we need to do. In summer, it's light from 5am till 9 or 10pm and I'm outside most of that. We used to just work daylight hours but now we're doing a lot of education and workshops so we work all the time. It's insatiable, never-ending. Our families probably think we don't do anything but we literally work all the time. You're always preparing or preserving olives or peaches or whatever so you have everything you need at all times. And we do everything on a commercial scale. Yeah we get stressed, it drives us crazy, but only because we're sleep-deprived and we have a list this long. Admin is the biggest stress. I can go out in the garden and feel energised at the end of the day but working at a computer drives me crazy.

12. How did you meet Lentil?

It was Australia Day. There were a whole bunch of people just hanging out at my house. Lentil arrived with a $5 bottle of wine and it turns out that $5 bottle of wine is the reason we are now married. It got her drunk enough that she couldn't drive home. People who watched us talking that night have said it was like that Donnie Darko film where people are connected. We were just having a heap of fun, have been ever since.

• Matt and Lentil are holding workshops on wholesome eating and sustainable living on June 4 and 14.

Tickets are available from littlebirdorganics.co.nz