Will the Holzer Permaculture Save the World?

Thanks Richard

> Quote: "If people would only realize that if one leads a life in
> cooperation with nature and not against it, then nobody in the world
> need die of starvation."
> Friday, August 24, 2001
> By Reuters
> RAMINGSTEIN, Austria--In the coldest part of Austria, a farmer is
> turning conventional wisdom on its head by growing a veritable Garden of
> Eden full of tropical plants in the open on his steep Alpine pastures.
> Amid average annual temperatures of a mere 39.5 Fahrenheit, Sepp Holzer
> grows everything from apricots to eucalyptus, figs to kiwi fruit,
> peaches to wheat at an altitude of between 3,300 and 4,900 feet.
> Once branded a fool, fined and threatened with imprisonment for defying
> Austrian regulations that dictate what is planted where, he is now feted
> worldwide for creating the only functioning "permaculture" farm in
> Europe.
> Permaculture, an abbreviation of permanent culture, is the development
> of agricultural ecosystems which are complete and self-sustaining.
> "Once planted, I do absolutely nothing," Holzer told Reuters. "It really
> is just nature working for itself--no weeding, no pruning, no watering,
> no fertilizer, no pesticides."
> His 110 acres of land in the mountainous Lungau region in the province
> of Salzburg are classed by European Union directives as unfit for
> agricultural cultivation due to the steep gradient and poor soil.
> When Holzer inherited the farm (then 44.5 acres) 39 years ago, it was
> only used for the grazing of the family's cows and sheep. He carved
> terraces out of the steep inclines (like the ancient Incas and Maya of
> South and Central America) to stop erosion and trap rainfall.
> He rejected the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which he considered
> poisonous, and the concept of monoculture--the cultivation of just one
> plant type over an expanse of land --because he believed it sapped the
> soil of all nutrients.
> Instead, he began growing a host of timber and fruit trees, shrubs and
> grasses all mixed up together.
> "Everyone said I was mad, and I had to pay numerous fines because the
> authorities said that it was illegal to plant such a combination,"
> Holzer said.
> "When I bought this patch of land off a farmer, it was not fit for the
> cows and sheep grazing on it. People scoffed that I was neglecting my
> land, but now they come to harvest cherries from June to October."
> "This is the worst type of soil, which just goes to prove that there is
> no bad soil, just bad farmers," he added.
> Most of the plants Holzer and his wife Vroni grow at his "Krameterhof"
> holding are not meant to flourish in Alpine conditions, according to
> experts.
> In winter, the temperature can fall to below minus 22 degrees
> Fahrenheit, and a blanket of snow lingers into May. Snow can even fall
> in the height of summer.
> Holzer said he found agricultural textbooks and his own years at
> agricultural college virtually useless. "I followed their advice
> initially, but my trees started dying off. I then realized that I had to
> eradicate from my memory all that I'd learned at college," he said.
> Enlightenment came one winter during one of Holzer's routine moonlight
> strolls when he noticed that the only apricot tree faring well in the
> harsh winter conditions was one he had forgotten to cut back according
> to ministerial regulations. Unlike the pruned trees whose main lower
> branches snapped off under the weight of snow, the "neglected" tree's
> branches were intact. Their unrestricted length had allowed them to
> droop with the tips touching the ground for support while the snow slid
> off, Holzer found. Allowing natural vegetation to grow around the trunk
> provided further support and nourishment for the tree.
> "If people would only realize that if one leads a life in cooperation
> with nature and not against it, then nobody in the world need die of
> starvation," he said.
> Holzer's philosophy is that nature knows best and needs negligible
> interference from Man. "We're born into paradise but are destroying its
> foundation, the soil. The soil can look after itself; there's no need
> for Man to tamper with it."
> Giant stone slabs pepper the landscape and serve as incubators by
> absorbing the sunlight and giving off warmth. The trees do their part as
> well in keeping the ground warm. Fallen foliage helps keep frost from
> reaching the roots. Tree stumps dot the plantations to regulate
> irrigation. Like a sponge they soak up water and later distribute it.
> Animals too have a role in the Holzer ecosystem. Scavenging pigs till
> the soil in place of a tractor, while grass snakes were reintroduced to
> keep voracious slugs and mice in check.
> Holzer is modest about his achievement which has led to projects in more
> than 40 countries and lectures on "the elimination of poverty in
> agriculture." He has rejected suggestions that he should have his method
> of permaculture patented. "I would consider that as theft from nature.
> It's not my possession. I got it from nature and have an obligation to
> pass this knowledge on," the bearded 59-year-old said.
> Holzer says his method of organic farming produces a much higher quality
> of crops than conventional farming and at a fraction of the cost and
> effort. He says his rare strain of grain contains 12 times the goodness
> of conventionally grown grain and as a result fetches a price 100 times
> higher.
> His success means that he no longer lives directly off the crops in his
> sprawling garden or the rare fish in his Alpine ponds and lakes. People
> pay to pick their own fruit from his land, experts visit to study
> "Holzer Permaculture," and the man himself regularly holds seminars when
> not in a far-off country such as Colombia solving chronic problems of
> the soil. And only one thing has so far stumped the man with green
> fingers. "Bananas," he said with a shrug of his burly frame. "They
> froze. It's no surprise as they need an average temperature of 30
> degrees. But I'm still working on it."


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