About Practical Primitive
Founded in 2007 in Toms River, NJ by Eddie Starnater and Julie Martin, Practical Primitive began with a dream and a mission of providing accessible, affordable and attainable learning in all aspects of primitive skills, wilderness survival, traditional living and self-reliance.
That mission continues to this day.
Back when Eddie & Julie met in 2005, Eddie had already spent most of a decade of teaching tens of thousands of students, up to 200 at a time, Survival and Primitive Skills. At that point Eddie was already becoming frustrated, exhausted and disillusioned with the large class format of virtually all Survival Schools in that era. Yes, he was passing along the information students sought, but too many people came through class after class, spending months of time and thousands of dollars, with little to no actual skills to show for it. As the Director of the school where they both worked, Eddie wanted to see more people actually able to do the skills they came to learn; to come to know and practice and perfect these skills, and come to love them as a part of their lives, the way he and Julie did.
By the Fall of 2006 Eddie had had enough of the cookie-cutter assembly line approach to teaching, and he made the decision to walk away. Julie, who was in charge of the administrative side of that school, was shown the door immediately after. At that point, Eddie was not sure he would ever teach again.
Thankfully for all of us, after some rest, a change of scenery, and about 6 months away from the stress and frustration they’d been so immersed in for so long, Eddie and Julie began to dream of a new type of Survival School — one that was unlike any other school in existence at that time. One that was focused on small groups, single skills and hands-on learning.
In May of 2007, Practical Primitive was born.
Shunning the standard class model of “as many students as you can get”, Practical Primitive workshops contained a maximum of four, six or eight people, depending on the skill being taught. Small classes are common now but at that point Practical Primitive was unique. Unlike any other school in a second important way, we held our workshops not in the middle of the woods or on hundreds of acres of empty land, but on a 3 acre lot, across the street from a cemetery that had about 10 extra acres of woods we could access, tucked away on a short, quiet street where the two cities of Toms River and Lakewood came together.
One of our goals was to show our students they didn’t need to be in the middle of nowhere to practice their skills. They could learn, practice and perfect them in a garage, or on a deck, or in a backyard, in the middle of 200,000 people.
After three highly successful years in Toms River, the property we were renting was set to be sold. Unable to find anything comparable in the area (it was such a unique spot!) we made the decision to purchase a property of our own. In September 2010 Practical Primitive moved our operations to a larger, 14-acre property surrounded by almost 300 acres of state forest, outside of Hackettstown in northern New Jersey’s Warren County.
Over the following ten years Practical Primitive continued to grow and expand. With over 200 different skills workshops, our innovation of small-group long-term skills intensives, webinars, books, DVDs and online programs, we continued to lead the way as our industry continued to change and evolve.
In 2014 Eddie was diagnosed with kidney cancer. By 2019, four years, five surgeries and three hospitalizations later, Eddie was cancer-free and healthier than he had been in years, but he was also ready to slow down, scale back, and spend more time enjoying life, travel, family and grandkids. After twenty years of full-time teaching the skills he loved, Eddie was ready to take a step back.
In 2019 we made the decision to leave New Jersey, re-vamp Practical Primitive and scale back our in-person offerings. A deep-dive survey of our existing student base and email list had shown us that there was a huge group of people who wanted to learn more from us but couldn’t due to a lack of time and/or too much distance between us and them.
Thankfully, advances in technology have now made it not only possible, but easy for many of the skills we had been teaching in person for so many years to be easily and effectively taught online.
It has always been our belief that the most effective way to share the most primitive of skills was through the most advanced of technologies. After two years of research, practice, consultation and beta-tests we launched our first 100% online Masterclass in January 2021 to great success! Our new Practical Primitive offers four different types of online programs:
Master Skills — Single skill courses and free resources geared to those looking for a skill or project that can be completed in hours or days.
Masterclass — Live online in-depth instruction on a single subject over the course of 6-8 weeks, for those ready to go deeper and push their skills to new heights.
Mastermind — For those looking for a community of like-minded people to share with and learn from over a longer commitment of six to twelve months.
Project Mastery — Our monthly skills membership perfect for those seeking projects and instruction on a variety of subjects.
When the Covid pandemic hit the world in early 2020 we were in preparing to close on the sale of our property in New Jersey and move to our new location and future homestead in Logan County Kentucky, about an hour north of Nashville and about 10 minutes away from our four amazing grandchildren.
As we’ve settled in to our new home we could not be happier with this new direction for our company and our lives. Julie has taken over as CEO and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, while Eddie has moved into a Consultant role. We look forward to continuing to build on our 40+ years of practicing and perfecting these skills to share them with you in a whole new way. We are excited to begin reaching a much wider audience and to continue sharing the skills we have dedicated our lives to practicing and perfecting with all of you.
If you’re still hoping for some in-person instruction, don’t despair! You’ll continue to find us teaching at various events, rendezvous’ and gatherings around the country, as well as for other schools as guest instructors. We can also be found at our local Farmer’s Market in Russellville, KY almost every Saturday morning from May through October. If you’re in the area, we’d love for you to come on by and say hi!