Josef ("Sepp") Holzer was born in the province of Salzburg, Austria. He is a farmer, author, and an international consultant for natural agriculture. He took over his parents' mountain farm business in 1962 and pioneered the use of ecological farming, or permaculture, techniques at high altitudes (1,100 to 1,500 meters above sea level) after being unsuccessful with regular farming methods. Called the "rebel farmer" because he persisted in these practices despite being fined and even threatened with prison for practices such as not pruning his fruit trees (unpruned fruit trees survive snow loads that will break pruned trees). He has also created some of the world's best examples of using ponds as reflectors to increase solar gain for passive solar heating of structures, and of using the microclimate created by rock outcrops to effectively change the hardiness zone for nearby plants. He has also done original work in the use of Hugelkultur and natural branch development.
He is conducting permaculture ("Holzer Permaculture") seminars at his farm and worldwide, while continuing to work on his alpine farm. His farm now spans over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds, and is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide. He is author of several books and the subject of the film The Agricultural Rebel. He works nationally as permaculture activist in the established agricultural industry and works internationally as adviser for ecological agriculture. He is the author of Desert or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes Using Water Management, Including Lake and Pond Construction, and Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening.