"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Agro Rebel

"Nature's book always contains the truth; we must only learn to read it." - Sepp Holzer

I have been following the farming methods of Sepp Holzer for quite a few years now but only recently finished reading his most interesting book titled Sepp Holzer's Permaculture - A practical Guide to Small Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening. The book is a fascinating account of how Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer has, over the past 40 years, transformed his over 100 acres of steep mountain sides into a virtual paradise filled with fruit trees, vegetables, and free ranging animals like the wooly Mangalitza, endangered Turopolje, and other pigs he uses to help clear and till the land.

Diversity instead of monoculture and working with nature rather than against it has allowed him to build a farm that thrives at altitudes ranging upwards of 5,000 ft above sea level with an average (mean) temperature of 39.5°...similar to the average in Duluth MN but with slightly warmer winters.

It's really quite amazing what he has accomplished in this boreal climate. Over 30,000 fruit trees, including citrus, apricot, peach, eucalyptus, fig, and kiwi fruit varieties, dot the landscape. His cherry harvest extends from June all the way into October because the trees are grown at varying altitudes. The Holzer family also enjoys working with unusual crops like primeval grains, mushrooms, and even raise fish in some 70 plus ponds that Sepp has created over the years...the epitome of permaculture. Take a look at the video below and you will see what I am talking about.

(Ohiofarmgirl - pig tilling can be seen at 40:45 minutes)

The movie can be viewed in a larger format at the below link↓...warning, if your computer is as pitifully slow as mine it might be hard to load.

More information can be found at -




And his previous book - The Rebel Farmer


Buttons said...

Sepp sounds amazing. I do have a slow connection so I probably will not be watching this video but I will now be looking for his books. Thanks Mr.H.

Ms. Adventuress said...

Brilliant AND beautiful! Perfect. ♥

WeekendFarmer said...

wow! well said..working with the nature vs. against it. I guess we are working against it when are heavily dependent on persticides and growth hormones. I will have to read up on him this *winter*. did I just say a bad word : )?

LynnS said...

Over the weekend I was viewing the 3 part series of his entitled "Terraces And Raised Beds". I marvel at the naturalized beauty he has coaxed from Nature as seen from above. His use of ponds incorporated well within small forest sections are breathtaking!

His commentary on the ignorant government regulating agencies is magnificent....a man after my own heart!

Pigs are tilling-machines and there is one section at our place all ready for gardening next Spring! :-)

JoyceP said...

What a wonderful and inspirational film. It's good to know like-minded souls aren't crazy after all. Thanks, Mr. H. for sharing!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

What a wonderful life he is leading! Oh to be young again! Why is wisdom given at such late stages in life?
I hope it's because we get a second chance :o) Thanks for sharing.

Bev said...

I'm on a waiting list for his book at the library, but I've seen some videos and he's a great inspiration.

I made some Sepp-inspired hugelkultur beds this year, which were a great solution for my very shallow soil.

Thanks for sharing this.

Mike said...

What an awesome man!

Kim said...

Amazing and inspiring! The book is going on my list of must buys.

Heiko said...

Inspiring stuff. For a change someone who like me cultivates the side of a mountain. Unfortunately I don't have so much space to have my own herd of pigs and bisons roaming about. I loved the way his pigs 'dug' him a veg bed.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Ah diversity do help lengthen harvest season isn't it. Very inspiring.

Mr. H. said...

Buttons - His books are very interesting, hope you get a chance to read them one of these days.

Ms. Adventuress - Yes, the Holzer's have carved out quite a life for themselves.

WeekendFarmer - Shh...lets not mention that W word for at least another month.:) But yes, polluting our food and environment will not bring us closer to the natural order of things.

Lynn - He does have many issues with the government bureaucracy, they have been pretty hard on him. I have read that they won't even let him sell his produce anymore. Glad you had a chance to view those videos, what an inspiring life he has created for himself.

Sounds like Michelle has been working hard for you.:)

JoyceP - We are not crazy, there are just not very many of us.:)

Ginny - Time does march along much too fast doesn't it. Sepp Holzer was one of those fortunate few who knew what he wanted from his earliest childhood.

Bev - I think you will really enjoy the book and find it to be very inspirational. I have not implemented a lot of major hugelkultur type sections in our garden but will be trying something in the future...I have a whole stack of rottting logs that I need to do something with.

Mike - Bigger than life to be sure.

Kim - I do hope you get a chance to read his book, very inspiring and full of interesting information...I was especially intrigued with his ideas on fruit trees.

Heiko - You saw the similarities.:) Now if you (and I) just had one of those giant machines to help move the earth around.

Malay-Kadazan girl - Yes it does. With so many different types of plants, we might as well extend the growing season for as long as is posssible.

kitsapFG said...

Oh to have that much land at your disposal! What fun that would be! He is quite inspirational in what he has accomplished and the way everything works such that essentially only himself and his wife can keep up with it all. Pretty impressive.

Dani said...

Brilliant - thanks for sharing :)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thats what I'm talkin' about! But them wooley pigs freak me out. EEEEEK!


Ms. Adventuress said...

I'm posting this response, which I left on my site, over here at your site, just to make sure you get to see it. I think you'll love these video snippets on science/nutrition...

Mr. H.,
Wow, you said it. "Soon the earth will spew us out, as we humans are so very distateful creatures." I wonder if our cancer, heart disease, etc. is just that. Powerful to ponder.

And I'm not sure if you saw this post, but I'm sure you will love this resource, so I want to be sure to pass along the link: http://msadventuress.blogspot.com/2011/08/nutritionfactsorg-launches-monday.html

I'll also post this over at your blog, too, to make sure you get to see this (as in the past I did not post comments here at my site, but now I am doing so!).

Keep up the great work. ♥

Mr. H. said...

Laura - Ah yes, but to have 100 acres...I can only imagine all the trouble I could create for myself with that much land at my disposal.:)

Dani - Thanks for checking it out.:)

Ohio - No wooly pigs for you? But they are so cute...ha ha :)

Ms. Adventuress - More than anything else I think perhaps it is the pollution of this planet that gripes me the most...what will be left for the future generations. Thanks for the link.

Mike said...

I finally finished it! Have you ever found a good place to buy bare root trees? He plants bare root and I am sure it is cheaper that way.
Also when we buy land it is my plan to dig a pond and form an orchard around it. Drop a bucket of trout in there and let nature do the rest.

Mr. H. said...

Mike - I am very happy to hear that you were able to watch the video. We usually buy our fruit trees at Greenacres Nursery on Trent in the fall when they go half price for around $8.50each. They have a pretty good selection of bare root apples, pears, cherries, and plums.

Lorena said...

Thanks, I thoroughly enjoyed this

Kimberly @ We Call Her Momma said...

Just finished watching the first video. That was awesome and inspiring as is your blog and garden.

Thank you for sharing it. Now I'll have to read the book (hoping it is available at the library.)

Here in the desert I've learned to let things grow even if they are not in the "right" spot, then plant underneath them. Some people may think my garden is a mess but to me, well, green is beautiful.

Take care.

Rob said...

What a great post!!! I've had Sepp on my list for some time - you've moved him to the top!
As for Mangalitza pigs - watch this space!!

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - Very good.:)

Kimberly - Thank you, there is always a way isn't there. Hope you are able to find a copy of the book.

Rob - So glad to hear that you find this type of agriculture as interesting as I do. Mangalitza pigs, I'll be watching.:)

Lrong said...

I shall have to watch the video... sounds very inspirational indeed...

Mr. H. said...

Lrong - It truly is both interesting and inspirational, I Think you will enjoy hearing his thoughts.

sylvie in Rappahannock said...

Thank you Mike for providing all those links. Very thought-provoking and inspiring!I did not know about Sepp Holzer.

High Desert Chronicles said...

Sepp is amazing and so inspirational to me. I love that he's been observing his world since being a child and that he was courageous enough to follow his heart. No matter how many books I read, no matter how many people I follow on this permaculture journey, I ultimately need to observe and make changes to my world that will benefit those around me. I've learned a lot my first year homesteading in the high desert, and I know that I will be surprised as we move forward and become agro rebels ourselves. LOL

Mr. H. said...

High Desert Chronicles - I was reading something the other day and the author said "we must learn to become native to the land of our living"...this is so true. We can indeed learn much from people like Sepp but must also also learn to conform to and thrive in our own unique environments. I wish you the best of luck with these endeavors and am happy to meet fellow agro rebels in the making.:)

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