“EVERYONE CAN CREATE A PARADISE
AND NATURE SHOWS US HOW IT’S DONE.”
– SEPP HOLZER

 

As a mountain farmer’s child, Sepp Holzer learned to “read the book of nature and to work successfully with nature instead of against it”. Through his unbiased, open approach of trying, failing and trying again, he has gradually come across productive patterns and connections in nature. What he learned from an early age in the “University of Nature” still forms the foundation of his land management, which is characterized by diversity, multifunctionality and creativity. In doing so, he has unconsciously inscribed himself in an agricultural and forestry tradition that combines empirical knowledge and scientific expertise: “Permanent Agriculture” – or permaculture.

After many years of travelling and working as a consultant, planner and teacher, Sepp now lives with his wife Vroni in southern Burgenland (the easternmost state of Austria). At the Holzerhof he implements his very own vision of an edible forest and experiments with polycultures, exotics and extreme conditions.

 

News

Most recently, „Agrar-Rebellion Jetzt” was published – Sepp Holzer’s new book, which he wrote together with his son Josef Andreas. In it, the two permaculture experts give an insight into their thinking and share their extensive experience in the field of “permanent agriculture”, an approach to land management that adopts processes and patterns in nature to develop multifunctional landscapes that are sustainably fertile and productive.

The authors meet the challenges of the climate crisis with fighting spirit, creativity and confidence: The future has not yet been written and a world in partnership with nature is full of possibilities.

Sepp Holzer: “Today’s agriculture and forestry are characterized by a number of self-inflicted problems: problems with the water balance, animal health, soil loss and biodiversity. Instead of fathoming the causes of this, most people are content to fight the symptoms: They irrigate, and they drain. They fertilize, and they spray poisons.

The consequences: even greater damage and even more worries. The land is being abused until at some point nothing grows at all. Far more than most can imagine would be possible today!
Using nature without exploiting it, that is what this book is about. Above all, it wants to encourage and show the potential that opens up when we ally with nature and are willing to learn from it.”

Nature is my school,
I want to share
what I have learned there.
– SEPP HOLZER

BIOGRAPHY

Numerous international projects and publications have made Sepp Holzer and his unorthodox approach known to a broad public. In German-speaking countries, his name is now almost synonymous with “permaculture”, but it took a while for him to become familiar with the term. His path there was an independent one and began on a small farm in the middle of the Austrian Alps.

Sepp Holzer: “I owe so much to the Krameterhof. He showed me the direction.

Here I learned to observe and to draw the right conclusions from good and bad experiences.”

Sepp Holzer was born and raised at the Krameterhof. The farm, which has been run by his son Josef since 2009, is situated on the southern slope of the Schwarzenberg Mountain in Salzburg’s Lungau region. Today it covers approximately 45 hectares, rising from an altitude of 1,100 m above sea level to 1,500 m.

Due to the long and severe winter seasons and a low average annual temperature, Lungau has been nicknamed Austria’s mini-Siberia. There are around 170 frost days, of which about 50 are ice days, i.e. days on which the thermometer does not rise above zero degrees Celsius. The average annual precipitation is just under 800 mm.

Although the framework conditions are challenging, this steep and, at first glance, seemingly inhospitable patch of earth has been farmed by mountain farmers for many generations – since 1890 by the Holzer family.

Like most mountain farms, the Krameterhof was a subsistence farm, i.e. a self-sufficient agriculture that could produce hardly any surpluses, but everything necessary for life.

Sepp Holzer: “The mountain farm of my childhood was a small-scale agriculture of diversity. 24 hectares in total, part of which was forest. We had a few cattle (which also pulled our cart) a good 30 sheep, a few pigs, chickens and geese. Everything we needed we produced ourselves – if that was possible. Nothing was wasted, everything was used. We had to stock up reserves for the harsh winter. If mistakes were made, you felt it for months.

 

Not only food, but also building materials, textiles, ropes or medicine were mainly produced directly on the farm. The working day began early in the morning and ended only in the dark. Everything was scarce and the work – at that time everything was manual work – was very exhausting.”

1962, Sepp Holzer was not yet 20 years old, he took over his parents’ indebted farm. Like many farmers of his generation, he soon had to make a critical decision: a part-time job, a specialization in dairy farming – as most people did at the time – or breaking new ground. Sepp Holzer opted for the latter and experimented with different agricultural methods and sectors.

At the Krameterhof there was soon a mushroom-, fish- and snail-farm, various deer parks, fruit crops, an apiary and much more. Step by step and together with his wife Veronika, Sepp Holzer diversified the Krameterhof – with great success and against the odds.

Many of his ideas and attempts contradicted official requirements, which led to several tedious and sometimes existence-threatening court cases, which he later made public in his bestselling book “Der Agrar-Rebell” (The Rebel Farmer”, 2002).

Sepp Holzer: “I’ve always wanted to be a farmer. For as long as I can remember, plants and animals have fascinated me. From an early age, my interest in this beautiful profession has led me to new paths and ideas. As a boy I worked out small successes in my little plant gardens in a playful way. They motivated me immensely and encouraged me to follow my instinct and go my own way. For this, I was first ridiculed, then – with increasing success – hostile and finally massively fought. In the bureaucracy as well as in the peasantry, it was enough to do other things to antagonize the rest. “He’s completely crazy! His farm will soon be ruined!” they ranted. Fortunately, I never cared what people said – their confirmation was not important to me. On the contrary, resistance often spurred me on even more.”

Sepp and Vroni Holzer’s ingenuity, diligence and perseverance were ultimately rewarded. The Krameterhof attracted more and more people interested in nature who wanted to see how it works.

In 1995, professors and students from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU) came to the Schwarzenberg Mountain. Dr. Bernd Lötsch and his entourage had heard of Holzer’s “wilderness culture” – as Sepp Holzer called his system at the time. He showed the visitor from Vienna his various “special crops” and explained the connections and interactions between the individual sectors and land uses.

Enthusiastic about the creativity of this stubborn mountain farmer, they finally certified that the Krameterhof fulfils the criteria of permaculture, of “permanent agriculture” in an exemplary way.

Dr. Bernd Lötsch: Naturally Holzer’s Garden of Eden is not a “wilderness”. However, since it is designed to be as non-labor-intensive as possible, it is not a genuine “culture” either. It contains all the success principles of genuine wilderness eco-systems – the apparent chaos of the many ecological niches behind which a living order is concealed: synergies, competition, self-regulation and cycles. Permaculture is the controlled coincidence of sharp-sighted observers of nature. “Chance favors only the prepared mind,” said the great Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). And that also fits Holzer senior, who often drew his very unusual conclusions from observations. The discoverer of vitamin C, Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986), said: “Research means seeing what others have seen, but thinking what no one else has thought before.” It is as if Pasteur and Szent-Györgyi had known Holzer. And if I had to add anything else to explain his success, I would say: Success is living on the interest of nature instead of (living) on its capital.”

Sepp Holzer: “I would never have thought that my work would meet with such great academic interest. Never. As a result, groups of students from universities in Austria and Germany came to our farm on an ongoing basis. Conversely, I have also given lectures about my form of agriculture at various universities – even in Russia, Colombia, the U.S.A. or Ecuador. I have received letters and inquiries from all corners of the world – piles of mail!
The appreciation I received at home and abroad for my work as a consultant and my books was a confirmation for me that the path I had taken – the path of permaculture, as I had learned in the meantime – was and still is the right one for me.”

Today, Sepp Holzer lives with his wife Vroni in southern Burgenland, where he continues his experiments at the Holzerhof. In 2009, he handed over the Krameterhof – a permaculture showcase project known far beyond Austria’s borders – to his son Josef Andreas. At the farm, guided tours and seminars take place regularly under the motto “Understanding through Experience”.

“THE KRAMETERHOF MAKES THINGS VISIBLE,
WHAT IS POSSIBLE,
WHEN YOU REALIZE THE COMPLEXITY
AND PRODUCTIVITY OF NATURE
MAKES USE OF IT.”
– SEPP HOLZER

Work

Sepp Holzer’s expertise soon made him a sought-after advisor – especially on questions of water balance, recultivation and renaturation. For many years, he worked worldwide as a consultant, idea generator and teacher, working for individuals as well as for companies, (indigenous) NGOs and municipalities.

Sepp Holzer: “I have supervised projects all over the world – from Siberia to California, from South America to Thailand. Naturally, the conditions are different everywhere: precipitation, climate, soil, wind, vegetation and natural hazards are just as different as the people you deal with. But the rules of nature, of water, yes, of life apply everywhere and those who follow them can operate successfully – even under difficult conditions. I am convinced of that, and I have been able to prove it many times.”

Reinhold Messner: „Instead of monocultures and industrial agriculture, a new vision is needed. Sepp Holzer has shown with his very concrete commitment that there is another way. His permaculture is sustainable, successful and committed to landscape conservation.“

Sepp Holzer: „It was an honor for me to advise Kristina an Douglas Tompkins. The successful entrepreneurs have created the largest private nature park in the world in Patagonia.“
Sepp Holzer: „The work that Almaz Böhm does with her organization Menschen für Menschen in Ethiopia is invaluable. It was a special pleasure for me that she took the long journey to find out more at the Krameterhof.“
Gernot Langes-Swarovski: „In harmony with nature, Sepp Holzer knows how to make possible what was previously considered impossible. At a time when nature is under increasing pressure worldwide, his work to preserve our environment cannot be valued highly enough.“

Sepp Holzer: „For Nora von Liechtenstein, I was able to create around 30 hectares of water in Spain and thus show how to bring a parched landscape back to life: Soil moisture is the prerequisite for fertility.

Klaus Heidegger: „Dear Sepp, thank you for convincing me over the years that you just have to treat dry soils properly. Through your permaculture method, you have turned my property into a green jewel.“

Contact

12 + 11 =

Disclaimer

Publications

AGRAR-REBELLION JETZT

Sepp Holzer / Josef A. Holzer

ISBN 978-3-7020-2076-7

Natur lesen – Permakultur begreifen – Zukunft gestalten
192 Seiten, durchgehend farbig bebildert, 16,5 x 22 cm, Hardcover

WÜSTE ODER PARADIES

Sepp Holzer

ISBN 978-3-7020-1324-0

Von der Renaturierung bedrohter Landschaften
4. Auflage, 208 Seiten, zahlreiche Farbabbildungen, Hardcover

WO EIN WILLE, DA EIN WEG

Sepp Holzer

Taschenbuch,‎ 352 Seiten, Goldmann Verlag

ISBN‏: ‎ 978-3442169801

KRÄUTERSPIRALEN, TERRASSENGÄRTEN & CO.

Claudia Holzer / Josef Andreas Holzer /
Jens Kalkhof

ISBN 978-3-7020-1260-1

Planen, Bauen, Bepflanzen
3. Auflage, 224 Seiten, zahlr. Farbabbildungen, Hardcover

SEPP HOLZERS PERMAKULTUR

Sepp Holzer

ISBN 978-3-7020-1037-9

Praktische Anwendung in Garten, Obst- und Landwirtschaft
9. Auflage, 304 Seiten, zahlreiche Abbildungen, Hardcover

DER AGRAR-REBELL

Sepp Holzer

ISBN 978-3-7020-0970-0

8. Auflage, 240 Seiten, 30 Bildseiten, 26 Farb-, 4 S/W-Abb., 8 Grafiken, 11 Seiten Faksimiles, Hardcover

„DON’T BE AFRAID.

NATURE ALWAYS SHOWS YOU A WAY..“

– Sepp Holzer