Foreword Reviews - June/August 2011
Despite a history of being fined and threatened with prison for his adherence to natural farming methods, farmer, author, and international consultant for natural agriculture Josef "Sepp" Holzer continues to practice what is now called permaculture on the high-altitude Austrian mountain farm he took over from his parents in 1962. A pioneer in the use of ecological farming methods, the so-called "rebel farmer" works as a permaculture activist and advisor, and was the subject of the film The Agricultural Rebel.
"Working towards a natural life and natural agriculture is difficult in a time when people in agriculture, science, and politics only have their eyes on 'progress,' whilst showing no consideration for nature," writes Holzer, whose life and work are a living demonstration of farming and living in cooperation with nature; not only for the natural world, but also for human beings to enjoy vital, healthy, and prosperous lives.
Appreciating that nature has already perfected methods for guaranteeing healthy plant and animal life, Holzer observed the conditions that each type of living thing required and replicated them on the steep mountainsides of his farm, 5,000 feet above sea level in an area called the Siberia of Austria. His self-sustaining landscape produces and nurtures high-quality vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, nuts, fish, poultry, pigs, cattle, and even citrus fruits—without irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, weeding, or tilling—in an intricate, efficient, and beautiful system of terraces, ponds and waterways, raised beds, and paths, utilizing land that monoculture-based methods could never cultivate. Readers will find it obvious that Holzer's insightful and creative growing methods, derived from careful observation of nature and experimentation on his own land, not only are environmentally sound at every level, but also, once established, mean much less work for the farmer or gardener, and result in much less strain on the ecosystem.
Holzer's beautifully designed and illustrated book is essential reading for all who care about the land and the vast interrelated web of living beings who inhabit it, and it is especially timely, since small and organic farmers in the United States are being threatened by agribusiness, chemical companies, and others who view nature as something to conquer and ravish rather than honor and learn from. Large- and small-scale farmers, home gardeners, and even those who only have room to grow in a few pots on a city balcony will find Holzer's methods applicable and effective, his reasoning and knowledge impeccable, and his spirit pure and honest.
June 29, 2011
Examiner.com - April 9, 2011
A book review of Sepp Holzer's Permaculture book, 'A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening.' I have to say that I was very eager to obtain a copy of Sepp Holzer's book which I advanced ordered early in January of this year. Our Permaculture class studied the masters on the subject such as Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Sepp Holzer. What intrigued me the most about Sepp Holzer is that he was dealing with harsh winter temperatures, much harsher than we see in northwest Ohio. So if he could develop principles that worked for him in the Alps, it would surely work for us on Lima, Tiffin, and the surrounding counties to Allen and Seneca.
So let's explore the book, it is six inch by nine inch in size with 232 pages. The book contains many color images of Sepp's farm located in Tamsweg, which is a market town in the Austrian state of Salzburg, along with colorful illustrations of design principles that have worked for Sepp. While his earlier book was more about theory behind his craft, this book is more the details of his forty years of observation within his own land. That is what I picked up quickly by reading the letter from Sepp to his readers. He urges us to observe, observe your land at each stage of the development. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, observe what happens when the rains come, when the heat scorches the earth, when the winds blow. Know what you land needs from you and what it can become and give back to you.
Landscape design is the first chapter with subsections for Permaculture systems, soil conditions, indicator plants, micro-climates, terraces and paths, raised beds, and waterscapes. The second chapter is for alternative agriculture such as green manures, regulating problem plants, plant diversity for polycultures, livestock which includes pigs, wild cattle, poultry with a specific section on maintaining poultry humanely, and lastly earthen and stone cellars. The third chapter is all about fruit trees with detailed instructions about making his tree salve which is used to protect the trees from browsing animals. Additional subsections include fruit varieties, propagating and grafting, Sepp's method for sowing a fruit forest, and how to process, market and sell your fruit. The fourth chapter will cover mushrooms, the health benefits, basic cultivation, mushroom spawn, and growing mushrooms on wood and straw. The fifth chapter covers gardens, the kitchen garden, the pharmacy at your doorstep, the vegetable patch, natural fertilizers, biological helpers for the garden, town garden or urban gardens as we would call them, along with a plant list for vegetables, medicinal and culinary uses. The sixth and final chapter covers projects in Scotland, Thailand, and Berta, a Permaculture project in Styria.
While many of the principles can be applied to urban setting, you will quickly see that Sepp is working on a much grander scale, carving a mountainside in a palace of plants and vegetation. Paul Whitfield wrote, ''Nevertheless the book's greatest value is not so much in the information it contains but the attitude that it teaches. It's message is not so much 'this is how you do it' but 'this is the way you go about thinking of how you do it.' I have to agree, while this will never replace my copy of Permaculture – A Designers Manual by Bill Mollison, Sepp's book will surely be in the same travel bag with it.
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