Would the space and time of the future ever open up to us again, if humanity no longer provided for and contributed to them?
In July 2012, I traveled to Salzburg, the home of Mozart, to visit a farmer named Sepp Holzer. In 1962, when the then nineteen-year-old Holzer took over his parents’ farm in the mountains of Lungau, he could not have imagined that the farm, known as Krameterhof, would become such a visionary land, and that he himself would be viewed as such a polarizing figure, described by some as a “rebel farmer.”
At the time, monoculture and governmental farming subsidies were gaining prominence in Europe, encouraging landowners to convert the old-growth forest into industrial plantations for producing specific varieties of wood. Foreseeing the damage this practice would inflict on the land and its ecology, Holzer decided to seek out his own approach to agriculture that would respect nature, and use it to preserve his land. He has done just that since taking over his parents’ farm, transforming the model for human interaction with land, animals, and plant-life in the process.
Holzer has turned forty-five hectares of mountainous terrain into an enormous forest garden with a water system comprising some seventy ponds and channels, which he carefully designed and manages himself, and which nourish his terrace fields. Yet the manpower overseeing this sprawling place requires just two people, Holzer and his wife, Veronika. Different kinds of vegetables, grains, fruit trees, and animals all exist in symbiosis here, growing naturally and leading their own lives—growing all the more bountifully and robustly beyond the reach of human hands. For the Chinese, what this land represents is perhaps the actualization of Laozi’s philosophy of “doing nothing,” as attained through the planting practice of an Austrian farmer:
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