Farm Photos

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sepp Holzer, Ponds and Aquaculture

I just finished digging our first small pond on the farm. It will be for water storage and serve as a duck habitat. We will connect this pond, which is at a high elevation on the property, to a lower pond where we will raise fish. The water will flow from the upper pond to the lower through a large swale. A swale is a Permaculture structure that is essentially a ditch filled with mulch and organic matter. It is dug on contour to the land, meaning level, so the water moves slowly and can seep out into the surrounding ground. In doing this, a gardener can capture rain water and runoff and hold it in their own landscape; instead of pumping groundwater from a well. In the land surrounding the ponds and swale, we will plant a mixture of perennial trees, bushes, climbers and roots to eventually become our food forest.
A Permaculture swale filled with water.

I am inspired to do this by one farmer in particular. He raises fish, generates electricity, waters his gardens, and creates microclimates all with his multiple man-made ponds. Sepp Holzer is an Austrian farmer who inherited his alpine land from his family and turned his childhood playground into a lifestyle.

Holzer's 70 plus ponds are arranged on a sloped mountainside. The water flows down through the ponds using gravity, between each pond Holzer uses water wheels and antique generators to capture electricity from the flowing water. Holzers farm produces immense diversity in species of fish, wildlife, poultry, vegetables, fruits and grains. Growing wheat, peaches, figs and kiwis is extraordinary when done in the high elevations of the Austrian Alps. Krameterhof, Sepp Holzers farm, is managed only by himself and his wife and has become a haven for sustainable farmers looking to learn a few tips.

In addition to cultivation, Holzer has devoted portions of his 45 hectares to wetlands, re-naturalization, agroforestry, mushrooms, and wildlife culture.

"Sepp works with nature and also creates habitats where his heritage breed farm animals thrive as well. He uses pigs as tractors to clear land for crops, farms cattle and keeps many breeds of chickens and ducks and makes sure his animals are kept in as natural a way as possible. Seeing this place is believing.
Take a tour with Josef, Sepp's son, and see for yourself what applied permaculture design can do in a farmed landscape. Human beings can live in harmony with the land, creating wildlife habitats and producing an incredible variety of foods. Sepp and his family have proved it." - Permaculture Magazine - "Visit Sepp Holzers Farm"

This is Hugelkultur, a method that Sepp Holzer teaches and employs to grow mixed vegetables in raised, biomass-packed beds. Usually logs or fallen trees are piled in the bottom, then topped with layers of mulch, compost and soil. This provides the growing plants with a huge nutrient source and the wood is a natural sponge for water retention. Also, by turning green sod upside-down and using it as mulch, the composting generates heat and keeps the beds warm.

Sepp, standing in front of two hugelkultur beds of mixed herbs and vegetables. He is famous for his seed mixtures which include a stable variety of vegetables, herbs and nitrogen fixers.

"I have lived on the Krameterhof for more than 30 years, and I have learnt that you can overcome the most difficult situations if only you care about nature and are thankful for what it offers to you. Mother Earth belongs to the Creator and her bounty is what we can experience." Veronika Holzer

Livestock on the farm.

To learn more about Sepp Holzer and Krameterhof; and to see when workshops or lectures may be available or coming to your area check out Holzers website:

He also has three separate DVD's available for purchase. One deals with raised beds and alpine farming; another with strictly aquaculture and a third video talking about farming with nature. They can be purchased through Green Planet Films: 

You can find the videos out there without purchase, sometimes they are in sections. Here is a 30 minute section of the aquaculture film: Aquaculture and Synergy of Land and Water

"Farming with Nature" Preview:

Also, if you can't get enough of Krameterhof like me, then there's a book titled Sepp Holzers' Permaculture available through virtually every major book outlet.

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