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Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening Paperback – April 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating book written by a man who has devoted a lifetime to working with nature and creating extraordinarily diverse polycultures. His work is breathtaking."--Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine

"There, at an altitude which everyone else has abandoned to low-value forestry, what is probably the best example of a permaculture farm in Europe stands out like a beacon."--Patrick Whitefield, permaculture author and teacher

ForeWord Reviews-
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.

(Kristine Morris)

"The real story of a 110+ acre commercial permaculture farm featuring 14,000 fruit trees with diverse understory plants, complete integration of rotationally grazed livestock, terraces and rainwater harvesting, and so much more. Anyone interested in taking permaculture to a larger scale in a cold climate will benefit from Sepp Holtzer's 40 years of practical experience implementing permaculture principles."--Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens

Here's great news for fruit-loving gardeners everywhere! Most of the work of establishing, pruning, and tending fruit trees by 'modern' methods is unnecessary and even counterproductive. Sepp Holzer's Permaculture is the One-Straw Revolution for tree crops.--Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-reliance in Uncertain Times

"After reading this book, all I can say is Sepp Holzer is a Superstar Farmer. Holzer turns out an absolutely remarkable volume and variety of food products, all without one smidgen of chemical fertilizer, and on land in Austria that an Illinois corn farmer would pronounce too marginal for agriculture. American farmers and gardeners will be particularly interested in Holzer's raised beds--which are quite different in construction from ours in the U.S.--as well as his inventive water well irrigation systems, unique methods for integrating livestock into his fruit and vegetable gardens, and practical, low-labor way to grow mushrooms. A fascinating book for anyone who aspires to become the ultimate, champion professional of sustainable farming."--Gene Logsdon, author of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, and The Contrary Farmer

"As the era of cheap energy, stable climates and surplus fertilizer stocks comes to a close, the principles of permaculture will become increasingly attractive as one way to design our future food and agriculture systems. Sepp Holzer's Permaculture provides important insights for applying these principles, for both rural farming and emerging forms of urban agriculture."--Frederick Kirschenmann, President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

About the Author

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.

Patrick Whitefield (1949-2015) was one of the UK's leading permaculture experts. He was a teacher, writer, designer, and consulting editor for Permaculture Magazine, and the author of the mini-classic Permaculture in a Nutshell, which has been translated into four languages, as well as The Earth Care Manual, How to Read the Landscape, and How To Make a Forest Garden.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (April 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160358370X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603583701
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Diana on May 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was an easy read, not at all dry or too technical. Mr Holzer describes his farming methods and his farm, his trials and errors and the lessons he learned the hard way.
He talks about permaculture, principles that he has been applying even before the term was coined. He has some great ideas, and you only have to see the pictures of his farm to know that they really work.

What I didn't like about it was that although he tells us what he did on his farm, he doesn't give enough details on how he does them. He whets your appetite for his methods, but then doesn't tell you enough. For example, he says stuff like: "I use foxglove to improve the health of the soil, among other reasons". It only leaves me wondering, what are those reasons?
He keeps telling that he has been watching the nature for 40 years, but he doesn't give the recipes for his plant mixtures. Instead, he suggests that one should observe nature and experiment for oneself.
I bought the book precisely to learn from his experiences, instead of having to spend years observing nature myself.

But overall it is a fascinating read, especially if you want an introduction to permaculture. It is a great lesson on thinking outside the box and succeeding against all odds. You can feel his love and respect for nature and for his land.
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121 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Valued Customer on February 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I bought this book with the hope that I would gain practical, applicable information about Sepp Holzer's methods. Instead, I got a somewhat random description of his farm and farming style, with a frustrating lack of specificity in many areas. If you are looking for a book that will explain how to implement permaculture design principles, specifics on how to manage pasture-fed pigs and other animals, or detailed guidance on plant seed mixtures and interplanting, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

I'd have been less frustrated by this book if it was the first time I encountered the ideas of Permaculture, pasture-raising animals, heirloom fruit trees and so forth, but it isn't. I've already read Fukuoka, Mollison, Holmgren, Stamets, Logsdon, and Colemen. All of these other author's books give much more concrete, useable advice, and cover their respective area in more depth and specificity that this one.

For example, the description of the book says that it covers "How to build shelters for animals and how to work with them on the land". Sounds great, and also one of the subjects I bought the book looking to deepen my knowledge of. The description of how to build the earth shelters is good, if cursory (9 pages, with pictures), but the actual working with animals part is only 17 pages long! These 17 pages (with many pictures), give an overview of his philosophy, a brief rundown of a few breeds he has used, a short description of how he works the animals and that's pretty much it. With 17 pages to cover pigs, cows, other bovines, and poultry, no great detail is possible. I learned exactly one new thing: that he mixes snails in his pig's feed to encourage them to forage for snails.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Slovakian Princes on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been looking for a book that would guide me in creating a garden and maybe even a farm that I can spend the least amount of time and money maintaining yet have better quality produce than the best store can provide. Sepp seems to be the best at this lazy farming approach from anything else I have found so far and appears to produce better quality produce than his competition with much less work and very little - I suppose - ongoing investment. His techniques seem too good to be true. It helps to watch Sepp Holzer's youtube videos as lot of information discussed in those is not covered in this book. For instance, Sepp installs fruit trees between the raised beds, and then uses a mix 50 ancient/heirloom seeds that he just tosses in the raised beds by hand when they are first build (no mention if he lets annuals and biennials reseed themselves or whether he does this every year ). Yes, he doesn't pre-start them early even at 1500 meters above sea level! Impressive! He says it is "alle wichtisgte" most important to have mixture of vegetables and herbs growing around his fruit trees. Just about everything he recommends is anti-conventional and not what one learns in schools, or from other "experienced" farmers or other gardening books. He recommends growing full sized hardy trees rather than the preferred easy to pick from dwarf trees because the later are more prone to problems. He also never fertilizes trees with commercial chemicals though he does provide a few recipes for making own fertilizers. In his experience trees that are fertilized become heavily dependent on the chemicals and grow disproportionately which makes them weaker. He also teaches against pruning, all of which I embrace if it is less work.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Erik Lee on September 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read a large number of the permaculture books available, and I've thought most of them were very good. This book sets itself apart from the rest, however, in one way that I think is very important -- most of them have so much detailed information that it's easy to get lost in it and suffer from what I call "paralysis of information." There are so many little things to know that it seems like you can never just go do something because it might not be optimal. This book does not suffer from that problem. While it does have less detail than most, it has sufficient detail to get the basic ideas across, and it does so in a way that really encourages you to get out there and do something so you can really start learning from experience. The presentation here is less prescription and more exploration. Where the Designers' Manual is encyclopedic in its scope to the point where it can feel like every possible situation is covered, this one leaves more room for individual adaptation and experimentation. The detail will come, and the other books will be invaluable when you need them. However, I expect that I'll be turning to Sepp's book most often in the initial phases of getting my own property turned around.

Having said that, I'd still recommend getting another permaculture book in addition to this one, as the additional ideas and information are really helpful as well. Try Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture, or Morrow's Earth Users Guide to Permaculture; both are very good. When you're ready to really go hard core, get the Designers' Manual and prepare to spend some hard study time internalizing it.
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