Sepp Holzer is an Austrian permaculturist who discovered permaculture on his own (before the term "permaculture" had been coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren) when he took over his family's alpine farm in 1962.
Holzer became aware of several permaculture concepts through careful observation of his natural environment and attempts to work with, instead of against, nature. His book Sepp Holzer's Permaculture is widely regarded as a modern classic. He is best known for his innovative earthworks, including earthen homes and hugelkultur; his advocacy for animals in the landscape; and massive rainwater harvesting projects which incorporate lakes and ponds.
Josef "Sepp" Holzer was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1942. He was raised there in a traditional rural setting. His family operated a farm in the mountains at approximately 3600 - 4900 feet above sea level. At 20 years of age, Sepp Holzer took over his family's farming business and quickly began to make waves through his attempts to practice a natural, sustainable agriculture.
Sepp Holzer was known locally as "the rebel farmer." He pursued natural methods to manage his farm in a way that was both profitable and sustainable - despite being fined and hassled by local agricultural authorities for not falling in line with the standard farming practices of the time.
Holzer developed his Krameterhof farm with innovative methods including massive water retention ponds which both irrigate the landscape and facilitate passive solar designs. He used plant guilds widely, which he intuitively called "plant families." His hallmark earthen structures are built into the steep hillsides of the landscape and include root cellars and dwellings for people and animals.
As his work gained notoriety, Sepp Holzer became a highly sought-after consultant around the world. One of his most well-known consulting projects took place in Tamera, Portugal - see the video below:
Holzer's first work Sepp Holzer: The Rebel Farmer was published in 2004. This book does include some information about Holzer's permaculture concepts and methods, but it reads like and should be considered as an autobiography.
Sepp Holzer's most famous work, Sepp Holzer's Permaculture, was first published in German in 2004, then translated to English in 2011. The book offers a wealth of insight into Holzer's philosophy and general methods, although it is light on detailed instruction.
Holzer followed with a second book, Desert or Paradise, in 2012. As the byline states, this book is about restoring endangered landscapes using water management, including lake and pond construction. The book includes examples of success from Holzer's consulting work, including his project at Tamera in Portugal.
The best resource for learning about Sepp Holzer in terms of his approach to permaculture is his book Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. You won't find detailed instructions, but you will learn a great deal about his underlying philosophies and methods.
Sepp Holzer maintains a personal website at www.seppholzer.at. The entire site is written in German, so you will need a working knowledge of the language or a good translation tool.