Healthy hero

Little Veggie Patch Co

Meet Mat Pember the man behind the Melbourne based business that's dedicated to helping people grow food.

Here at WW, we love people who give back to their communities and better the health and lives of those around them. Mat Pember set up the Little Veggie Patch Co in 2007 and, inspired by a shared love of food, he and Fabian Capomolla started a landscaping business installing fruit and vegie gardens in people’s backyards.

From there, the business has grown, boasting four books and selling all things edible and garden-related from a retail space in East St Kilda, Melbourne. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a strong educational component to the business, with workshops running out of the pop-up site behind Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD. Busy, huh? We talk to Mat about his infinite passion for plants.

Why is growing fruit and vegies so popular now?

You can be assured of what’s in your food when you grow it yourself. Vegies and fruit typically have optimal nutrition when they’re fresh, so if you take it straight from your garden to your plate you’re getting the most out of its nutritional offering. Then there are the benefits of being outside, getting exercise from the digging, and enjoying the sunlight and fresh air.

It’s really important to take time off from technology – gardening is a great refuge. It’s a great way of feeling grounded and getting you back in touch with the basics, as well as ensuring you get better-tasting produce. Growing food gives you a sense  of accomplishment and makes healthy eating easier and more appealing.

Little vegie patch co

So, what inspired you to start up the business?

I’m a big food lover and growing your own food is such a popular concept at the moment. Setting up a food-based company allowed me to do what I love while helping people learn about growing food.

Any solutions for people who don’t have a garden?

A garden can be as small as a pot of herbs. As long as you’ve got a small patch of sun – a windowsill, bit of wall or a balcony – you can grow fantastic herbs. 

Will I need lots of equipment to get started?

No! All you need is soil, a bit of sun and water. In fact, it’s a good idea to start small and have successes early rather than bite off too much and end up getting frustrated.

What do you recommend beginners plant first?

Grow whatever you like to use in cooking – for example, fresh mint or flat-leaf parsley. Most herbs are perennial, meaning you can grow them all year round, like thyme and oregano. Basil and coriander are annuals (meaning they complete their life cycle, from germination to flower to seed, in one year). They’re also really easy to grow and are great to use in the kitchen. 

Little vegie patch co

Article first published 1 September, 2015.