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An Inspirational Tale

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  • Rex Teague
    This turned up on a Permaculture list... tickles my anarchistic sensibilities tremendously - Rex August 24, 2001 By Reuters RAMINGSTEIN, Austria -- In the
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 4, 2001
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      This turned up on a Permaculture list... tickles my anarchistic
      sensibilities tremendously - Rex


      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.


      PROOF IS IN EATING OF PUDDING
      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.


      LET NATURE TAKE ITS OWN COURSE
      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.


      INSPIRATIONAL, BUT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE?
      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."


      Copyright 2001, Reuters
    • Stephen Canner
      Sepp s also got a website: http://www.krameterhof.at/ Stephen Canner Austin, Texas ... __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Get
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 4, 2001
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        Sepp's also got a website:

        http://www.krameterhof.at/

        Stephen Canner
        Austin, Texas


        --- Rex Teague <DibbleGardens@...> wrote:
        > This turned up on a Permaculture list... tickles my
        > anarchistic
        > sensibilities tremendously - Rex
        >
        >
        > 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.


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      • emily groff
        ... yeah, but it s written all funny. cain t read a durned bit of it. that story is too amazing for words. thanks for posting, rex! ... Emily Groff
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 6, 2001
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          >Sepp's also got a website:
          >
          >http://www.krameterhof.at/
          >
          >Stephen Canner
          >Austin, Texas


          yeah, but it's written all funny. cain't read a durned bit of it.

          that story is too amazing for words. thanks for posting, rex!

          -----
          Emily Groff
          www.geocities.com/emily_rain/


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        • Rex Teague
          ... http://babelfish.altavista.com produces a rough translation. ... Another website has come up in the discussion elsewhere:
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 6, 2001
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            On 6 Sep 01, emily groff wrote:
            >Stephen Canner wrote:
            > >http://www.krameterhof.at/
            > yeah, but it's written all funny. cain't read a durned bit of it.

            http://babelfish.altavista.com produces a rough translation.

            > that story is too amazing for words. thanks for posting, rex!

            Another website has come up in the discussion elsewhere:
            http://www.crystal-lake-video.de/permaculture.html

            Plus a spin by someone closer to the action... goto:
            http://franklin.oit.unc.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?visit=permaculture
            and search on: vesovnik

            Cheers... Rex

            >
            > -----
            > Emily Groff
            > www.geocities.com/emily_rain/
            >
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          • souscayrous@wanadoo.fr
            Dear All, I m very pleased to have discovered a group dedicated to the discussion of Fukuoka...especially as I will soon be taking over the stewardship of
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 15, 2001
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              Dear All, I'm very pleased to have discovered a group dedicated to
              the discussion of Fukuoka...especially as I will soon be taking over
              the stewardship of several hectares. I live in the South of France,
              and am, not surprisingly, surrounded by vineyards. Some of the land I
              will be using are old vineyards themselves, soils exhausted and
              compacted and I'd like to use my oppurtunity to show what can be done
              with such land to try to show the local farmers the difference
              between diversity and monoculture. I have no experience in farming
              and would hope that there are people on this list with the practical
              experience to help make my hopes realise. I have read 'One Straw
              Revolution' but hope I can learn some more practical help from this
              list and 'The Natural Way of Farming' that I've already ordered, but
              has not yet arrived - perhaps it is out of print?
              I tried to follow the Rex's link to the permaculture list at Franklin
              but couldn't find anything under vesovnik, but have appended a
              response by georg parlow on the pc list that casts some light on Sepp
              Holzer (perhaps this is the email you had in mind Rex?).

              souscayrous

              ...as i am one of the main pc activists here in austria (founding
              chairman of
              the national pc association), i am double-minded about sepp holzer. i
              love
              it that he is able to get all the media exposure and the
              term "permaculture"
              receives part of the attention. however, i am wary about the fact,
              that in
              my opinion it is not permaculture what he is doing, and i am afraid
              that
              sooner or later this will show and discredit permaculture.

              sepp holzer is a genius in his way. he really knows his turf (in the
              litteral sense of the meaning), he successfully threw out everything
              he
              learned about agriculture (also no book about organic farming,
              permaculture
              etc. has ever spoiled his approach until 1997, when eva vesovnik
              visited his
              farm and said "but this is permaculture you are doing!" - he might
              heave
              read something since, mainly so he knows what words to use for
              marketing
              reasons), he goes and boldly tries every idea he has, and he is a
              marketing
              genius.

              sepps strongest assets (besides his marketing skills) are the intimate
              knowledge of the farm he grew up on, to pay attention to his
              microclimates,
              warm air currents and all sorts of things he observes and notices
              there, to
              come up with the most creative explanations for his observances, and
              to go
              ahead with action based on his observances and explanations.

              all this could make him a great permaculturist. now let me explain
              why i
              think it is not permaculture, what he is doing there:

              care for the earth? honestly i am not sure about that. the natural
              climax
              vegetation of the region is almost pure pine. sepp digs in 10 meter
              high
              "bad pine monoculture" with the bulldozer, turns them into
              huge "raised
              beds", plants tiny fruit trees on them, and sows them with jerusalem
              artichokes, radishes and (voluntary) stinging nettle. naturally the
              herbs go
              rampant on the exessive nutrients and the radishes are fist-big,
              which is "a
              prove for the superiority of permaculture".

              2 or 3 years ago he had a landslide above his farmhouse, and 1 foot
              of mud
              in all rooms. the landslide was caused by a broken dam of his design
              and
              doing - there isnt any design, really, and never was. there is only
              lots of
              ideas applied - some great idaes, some meaningless, some stupid ones -
              and
              unfortunately sepp holzer isnt into small experiments - he seems to
              like big
              things and knows how to operate his bulldozer.

              care for the people? sharing of the surplus? thumbs down. besides his
              close
              family, the only person he cares for seems to be his lawyer -
              indirectly.
              nearly everyone i have heard of who has had any closer dealings with
              him has
              been sued or at least threatened with a suit (if he hears about my
              opinion
              about him i will certainly get sued). in wintertime he is said to
              cherish
              the old austrian farmers-tradition of going to court with his
              neighbours. i
              have not heard so far of him ever moving an eyelash without asking
              money for
              it. while i know of functioning pc systems that really give away
              wheelbarrows of food for free (e.g. peter bird on W.A.), if sepp says
              "people come to pick my cherries" you can be sure that they pay for
              it - big
              time. if permaculture is about subsistance life, and subsistance
              grows on
              local and regional cooperation, sepp holzer is as far from it as you
              can
              get.

              please note that this is my private opinion as an individual, and not
              the
              position of the austrian permaculture association.

              kind regards
              georg





              --- In fukuoka_farming@y..., "Rex Teague" <DibbleGardens@b...> wrote:
              > On 6 Sep 01, emily groff wrote:
              > >Stephen Canner wrote:
              > > >http://www.krameterhof.at/
              > > yeah, but it's written all funny. cain't read a durned bit of it.
              >
              > http://babelfish.altavista.com produces a rough translation.
              >
              > > that story is too amazing for words. thanks for posting, rex!
              >
              > Another website has come up in the discussion elsewhere:
              > http://www.crystal-lake-video.de/permaculture.html
              >
              > Plus a spin by someone closer to the action... goto:
              > http://franklin.oit.unc.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?visit=permaculture
              > and search on: vesovnik
              >
              > Cheers... Rex
              >
              > >
              > > -----
              > > Emily Groff
              > > www.geocities.com/emily_rain/
              > >
              > >
              > > _________________________________________________________________
              Get
              > > your FREE download of MSN Explorer at
              http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp
              > >
              > >
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              > > ---------------------~--> FREE COLLEGE MONEY CLICK HERE to search
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              > > http://us.click.yahoo.com/47cccB/4m7CAA/ySSFAA/bAOolB/TM
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              ---~
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              > >
              > >
              > >
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              > > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
              > >
              > >
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