by Justin Haefner
Tom Brown III spent most of his childhood at his father’s wilderness tracker school learning the art of survival, animal tracking, and gaining a general connection with the natural world.
Now he’s created his own school based in Marshall with the goal to teach people self-reliance and connection to nature through primitive living skills.
“I want to share the knowledge I have,” he said, “in order to lead people back to the earth.”
His father, Tom Brown Jr., ran his school in the pine barons of New Jersey. Classes began around the time that Tom was born, and his early childhood rotated around the structure of the school. He started working as a counselor at the school in 2002, and he moved to Florida in 2009 to start a traveling school called Primitive Arts Collective.
“I owe everything I am, and all of my friendships and relationships to Tracker School,” he said. “Many people would come for classes; they’d be all ages and all walks of life interacting and just having a good time.”
In 2013, Brown began the next step of his journey. He was introduced to the owner of Overlook Farm in Marshall, Denise Al-Bashir and Aboudhi Baksh, who were both looking to start a community farm with an outdoor education
component. It became the perfect place for Brown to start his own school for teaching people on primitive living skills, survival skills, farming, and general self-reliance in nature.
“While I enjoyed traveling the country to teach classes,” he said. “I always yearned for a property that we could really build and shape and take care of.”
Brown and his girlfriend, Lisa Porter, moved to the farm in 2014. They and another couple, Kevin McDonald and McNeill Mann, have created a school on the farm called Earth Village Education.
“It’s been a dream for all of us to start up and build an organization like this,” Brown said. “As humans, our role on this planet is to take care of the earth as best we can.”
One of the main goals of Earth Village Education is to help people learn about and connect with the earth so they can be more aware of the natural world and therefore take care of it better. The farm includes a wide variety of animals and they’re also growing some crops.
“We want to teach people to be more self-reliant so they can grow their own food or know how to take care of themselves if they get lost in the woods. By doing so, it really forces you to look upon the earth with a new set of eyes.”
“As people learn primitive skills it helps to really intimately connect them to their surroundings.” he said. “Another component we want to have is to really just foster community. We are just not connected to our communities and people the way we once were.”
Their website, earthvillageeducation.org, offers full details on the courses and when they’re scheduled. They offer one- or two-day weekend classes priced from $60-$120 on a sliding scale to make it as accessible as possible.
The goal is to ultimately create a community that can forge connections between many different communities in the area. Brown said he believes that one of the biggest causes of fear in the modern world is the lack of community.
“In this country especially there’s a lot of fear, and that really comes from not knowing people around you and not knowing your community.” As his father’s own teacher once said: “What we don’t talk to we don’t know; what we don’t know we fear; and what we fear we destroy.”
Brown wants Earth Village Education to expand further beyond primitive living and wilderness survival skills. “The primitive skills don’t really have a place in society,” he said. “Which is why we teach the homesteading skills, the gardening skills, making your own clothing, and blacksmithing.”
As Brown and his colleagues have been going through the process of starting Earth Village Education, they’ve also carefully recorded everything they do along the way.
“The goal is to expand Earth Village Education first across the country, then across the world if we can,” Brown said, adding he plans to put together a starter kit to make it easy for new locations to be created.
Brown said he’s trying to teach students to combine a connection to the natural world with the way modern society functions. ““I teach primitive living skills,” he said, “yet I have an iPhone and an iPad. It’s all about having feet in both worlds.”