Case study for Ekokmetija Pri Sustarju – Ecological Farm Shushtar (Slovenia)

DATE: 26.03.2013DSC05992
PROJECT NAME:     Ekokmetija Pri Sustarju [Ecological Farm Shushtar]
LOCATION: Hotemaze, Slovenia
SIZE: 2 Hectares + 1500H Zone 5
DESIGNER: Primoz Kriselj
MANAGED BY: Primoz Kriselj

Context – Physical/social/historical
Valley of the river Kokra. Glaciation valley. 420m above sea level. Continental alpine climate. The farm is situated on the edge of the village of Hotemaze. The original farm is in the centre of the village. A new farm house was built on the outskirts of the village in 2005. Originally the farm belonged to Primoz’s father and now the old farmhouse has been ‘converted’ to a living museum.

DSC05982Site Analysis/Description – Place/use
Originally rather poor pasture land with a thin soil on the banks of the river Kokra. A flat site exposed to the prevailing northerly winds. Poor soil and gravel. Annual rainfall 1800mm concentrated in autumn to April. Rapid draining  of the soil leads to water shortage in the summer months.

Project Background and History
Originally a self–sufficient farm until the end of the second world war. The farm remained unchanged since the first world war. The farm was inherited by Primoz’s father who then passed it on to Primoz in 2000.

DSC05974Design, Development and Decision-Making Process  
In 1984 Primoz started by keeping sheep (a legal requirement to have livestock in order to have ownership of land in former Yugoslavia). They started worm composting project using mushroom growing waste and animal manure.
Market for compost declined so they started growing vegetables to give added value to the compost being produced. In the late 1980’s Graham Bell ran a PDC in Slovenia which Primoz attended. They invited Graham Bell to visit the farm and he found it a very nice permaculture farm.They ran a PDC on the farm with Peter Birkett; the design project was the farm. They got planning permission to build new farmhouse. It is a family farm, so decisions are made by the family.

Role of Designer(s)  
Input from permaculture teachers. Otherwise gradual evolution of the current design.

Programme Elements – what was planned/ the site functions (use, users, activity)
Vegetable production. Livestock that includes ducks, chickens and other poultry. Sheep (200) which bring a subsidy yield and also build the fertility (manure) plus meat and wool. About forty pigs. Education centre for children and adults.

DSC06005Maintenance and Management – long and short-term view
Some seasonal local labour is bought in. Some students also, for work experience. They are planning to offer Wwoofing opportunities. Otherwise, the site is managed and maintained by Primoz and his partner, Polonca.

User/Use Analysis
Food production. The harvest is sold through organic markets in Slovenia and Austria and to quality restaurants. Also sausages and ham is produced and sold to customers in London and Italy. They are developing a CSA starting with a box scheme using a local distribution point. There is also a farm shop with local clients.

Project Significance and Impact/Lessons Learned
This is a real example of a financially viable farm, as well as of fertility building of poor soils using livestock and compost production. The whole family is off one hectare with diverse management and production. Successful outdoor cultivation of crops like watermelons tomatoes, peppers, aubergines etc., in an alpine climatic zone.

What could have been done differently?  
Could have stayed in a well-paid job – not really!

Only one hectare of land and difficult to rent or buy land locally – however this hectare is enough to support the family. Makes rotation of crops difficult.

Transferable Features and Lessons  
Need to be flexible and respond to market changes that influence financial viability of undertakings on the farm. Diverse activities also maintains the interest.

Future Issues/Plans
To make management of the system more sophisticated. Work less to free up time to be able to do more teaching.

Does your project offer opportunities for volunteering or internships?

Does the project welcome visitors or study tours?

Can you offer accommodation to visitors or study tours [at the project or locally]?

Web Sites/Links

EPT participants feedback on the venue


  • Connect tradition with permaculture
  • Using local resources
  • Old house
  • Diversity of operations
  • Value added
  • The ancient tools and beautiful decoration of the house (ceramic stove, all traditional elements, very inspiring
  • The garden: permaculture has no boundaries
  • Hub of networking
  • Productive (food)
  • Financially sustainable
  • Value of a family farming village
  • How to make a living in contemporary society that honours “old school” ways
  • People really appreciate the tradition in the place
  • How you can get people’s attention more clearly, faster, using this nice example of permaculture in Slovenia
  • Good food
  • Successful market-farm – permaculture in practice
  • World’s biggest herb spiral
  • Pond lining technique
  • Interesting open chimney (‘black kitchen’) serving different functions

Could Improve:

  • New entrance, more attractive
  • More trees
  • More feng shui
  • Involve neighbours
  • Design more free time for owner
  • On the land: more trees, more design
  • Needs people and organization
  • Set limits to the number of people present in that house for courses, to use the space more effectively
  • Farm: potentially develop an internship programme, so that more people can learn from this model
  • Make a design to include quality people to help with the farm
  • Zones and sectors not clear
  • Improve communication of the site design (eg, an infoboard )
  • Less plastic mulch on the fields