Sepp and Josef Holzer
Krameterhof, Ramingstein, Austria
Now seen as one of the fathers of permaculture, Sepp Holzer took over his parents’ farmland in 1962 at the age of 20. Situated in the Austrian Alps at a high altitude (1,100 to 1,500 metres), the farm is a 45-hectare estate that is often covered in snow. Despite the location, climate and original vegetation, Krameterhof quickly became a laboratory to test out new agroecological practices. Sepp and then his son Josef have made it a nourishing land by promoting biodiversity instead of fighting it. They develop a wide variety of crops there, incorporate different types of animal husbandry, and create a balance by encouraging interdependence between fauna and flora. The estate takes the form of a series of terraces inspired by Asian paddy fields. Rainwater run-off is controlled by the creation of over 70 ponds, lakes and pools connected to each other, making it possible to raise ducks, geese, fish and even crayfish. These water reservoirs encourage the development of an ecosystem (insects, snakes, amphibians) and make it possible to balance the temperatures. When a pond empties out, the water then follows a stony path specially designed to purify and enrich it in oxygen, before reaching the next pond.
This system of terraces offers soil with enough moisture for crops, but it also preserves the mineral-rich humus. Each plot of land is sown with a mixture of 40 to 50 different plants, the network of roots created stabilises the ground and prevents erosion. The slopes between each terrace are planted with fruit trees and coppice trees that provide biomass that is useful for feeding animals, heating and fodder and for improving soil fertility.
The organisation and distribution of the crops are based on the site's natural resources to create cycles incorporating the energy required for the crops (water, minerals, nutrients). The estate is designed so that the crops receive as much sunlight as possible. Trees, shrubs and bushes protect crops from the wind, preventing the soil from cooling and drying out. Microclimates develop in highly protected spaces that accumulate natural heat: plants that normally require warmer climate conditions flourish against rocks or behind hedges and walls.
Culture en terrasses © Atelier CTJM
To enlarge image:
For more information: