The Agro Rebel
In the southern most tip of Salzburg lies Lungau, or “Austria’s Siberia”. Here, on the side of a mountain, farmer and forester Sepp Holzer uses some very unconventional methods.
He has created an edible paradise landscape, despite annual average temperatures of 4.5 oC and being at an altitude of 900m – 1400m above sea level. Through forty years of observation, experimentation, and inexhaustible enthusiasm, Holzer has convinced his competitors of his natural food forest management practice. “Diversity instead of simplicity – for all plants and animals have a meaningful function,” says Holzer. The use of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers is completely dispensed with. “Cooperate with nature rather than fight it. Watch nature and find out which plants support each other.” These are key concepts for Sepp Holzer and basic principles of permaculture.
When Holzer took over his father’s farm in 1962, he was only 19. Without having ever heard of Bill Mollison and his permaculture design principles, he and his wife operated a full functional permaculture system.
His 46 hectare property is different in almost every way from the surrounding spruce monocultures. Designed in terraces, like those of rice paddies in Asia, Holzer is capable of producing fruits that no one would believe possible at such high altitude – cherries, apples, mushrooms, kiwis, lemons, pumpkins, zucchinis, and potatoes. Nature thrives all over. Numerous aquatic spaces like biotopes, mountain lakes and 45 water gardens irrigate but also provide a space for breeds of rare organic fish, crabs and toads. The pigs harrow and fertilize the soil and the plants provide all the nutrients, moisture and nitrogen that is needed, thus Sepp Holzer works less and has more time to take visitors around his mixed culture farm.