"Primitive living allows us to practice living on a model scale. By 'living' I mean that process of procuring our needs for physical and mental well-being, including such things as shelter, fire or energy, water, and vegetable or animal resources. In primitive living we are faced with these needs as realities we must meet. We are faced with the realization that in order for our lives to go onward, we must take from the world around us; like the coyote stalking a mouse, we must kill and use to survive."
--Thomas J. Elpel
Primitive Living as Metaphor
Green University® LLC
Immersion Program Registration
How to Apply
Welcome to Green University®! We accept new students twice a year for semester or year-long immersion program:
Fall Semester: September 21 - March 20
The fall session begins with the autumn equinox. We recommend attending Rabbitstick Rendezvous immediately before coming into the Green University® LLC community as a good introduction to primitive skills.
This year we'll start the Immersion program with an eight-day Paddle Back in Time on the Jefferson River, followed by Orientation and Work Projects, an Apple Cider Party, and a Sheep Processing Class. Autumn is also hunting season in Montana, and opportunities abound for processing meat and hides, even without actually hunting. Learn how to skin and butcher deer, tan hides, and make clothing through the Deer Processing Intensive and stay on to develop proficiency through the Fall Harvest and Celebration of the Deer. This is the ideal time of year to focus on crafting skills, developing proficiency at anything from bow and drill fire-starting to basketry and felting.
Winters are long in Montana, but mostly sunny and often surprisingly warm during daylight hours. Students often strip down to t-shirts on warm days, while burrowing into double sleeping bags to hibernate on cold nights. Spend the winter crafting your own clothing and gear to be prepared for adventure as we transition into spring. Sometimes we head south for walkabouts and/or Winter Count
Spring Semester: March 21 - September 20
The spring session with the spring equinox. Early spring is a good time for fall students to wrap up winter crafting projects, and for incoming students to tan their first hides. Start with tanning deer hides, then participate in the Bison Tanning Class to tan your very own buffalo robe.
In May we offer primitive skills programs for public schools through our Outdoor Education and Basic Skills Intensive in conjunction with our sister program, Outdoor Wilderness Living School, LLC. Mentoring youths is a great way to refine your own skills! You will be amazed at how much you learn, and at how deeply we immerse the kids into nature.
Immersion students are welcome to join Green University® LLC staff plus past and present students, friends, and family members for canoe trips, walkabouts, or road trips, such as our Botany and Foraging Intensive. Every year is different, so be sure to check the Class Schedule for an approximate idea of what's in store throughout the year.
No Drugs, Alcohol, or Tobacco
Green University®: LLC is a drug, alcohol and tobacco-free learning establishment. Our staff maintains a sober environment for individuals who are excited about nurturing a deeper nature connection. Anyone distracted with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs is not focused on learning or optimizing their experience at Green University® LLC. Therefore, we have a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in any form. Anyone violating this rule will be asked to leave. This is not a joke. Please read this paragraph again before signing up. Thank you.
Work-Trade Discount: $7,900/Year or $5,400/Semester
Green University®: LLC offers the best pricing of any extended learning program at $10,400/year with a generous work-trade discount reducing the price to $7,900/year or $5,400/semester, which is probably less than it would cost to stay home! The work-trade discount is built into the tuition price.
Green University® LLC sustains low tuition prices through its cooperative nature. You are not here to be our servants, nor do we charge enough to be your servants. Everyone is expected to contribute to the tribe through ongoing projects like gathering firewood or butchering roadkill deer. Bigger projects may require the sustained participation of all hands, as was the case for building the earthlodge.
Work-trade consists of whatever needs doing, such as feeding and watering the sheep, fence maintenance, construction projects, tree planting, or picking up trash at public access sites. Many work-trade projects have an educational component, such as learning to use tools for building projects. The workload is fairly minimal, yet at times may require all hands for several days in a row. Bottom line: Our Immersion Program isn't merely a class where you extract knowledge and assistance from instructors; we are a tribe where everyone works together.
Other yearlong programs cost up to $25,000 per year, last only nine months, and don't include lodging or food, such that students must rent a house and get a job to make ends meet during the program. Green University® LLC, however, is a fully-immersive, residential program where participants are immersed in a community setting with individuals of similar interests.
Tuition includes camping/lodging at River Camp. The wickiups and earthlodge are available as communal shelters, which are especially helpful for arriving students to move in and get a feel for the program. Once you've melded into life at River Camp, you may want to set up your own camp, such as a canvas bell tent. Enjoy your own personal space and have room to spread out your gear. Having your own camp enables a good balance between individual time and communal living.
Green University® LLC does not officially provide food, but there is a minimalist monthly group stipend for communal purchases. Most food is sourced through roadkill game (legal here in Montana), dumpster diving, limited wild food foraging, and the River Camp garden. There is often an excess abundance of food, which ultimately goes to the resident flock of chickens.
Tuition for the Immersion Program primarily covers instructor wages and site maintenance. Prices are subject to rise at any time. However, we'll honor the rate previously advertised if your application arrives before a price adjustment. Please click over to our Contact Page and send us a detailed biography of yourself, what skills and ideas you have to contribute to the Green University® LLC immersion program, and what you hope to learn here. We may ask questions to make sure our program is appropriate for you. All participants are required to read and sign our Liability Waiver and Release (PDF). and Medical History (PDF) forms. Green University® LLC does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
For those who are interested, it is often possible to earn back some or all of the Green University® LLC tuition after an extended stay, especially for those who stay on after completing the year-long Immersion program. We may be able to find ways to collaborate on worthwhile projects, varying from producing books and videos to launching green businesses. Some of our past students have made a net profit from their Green University® LLC experience. In our opinion, that's the way the program should work!
Immersion Program FAQ's
Register online here with PayPal or a credit card,
or send a check or money order to:
Green University, LLC - PO Box 697 - Pony, MT 59747
To get the most out of Green University® experience, it is helpful to immerse yourself in Tom's many books and videos. The more you know before you get here, the more you will gain from the program. Our conversations become richer and more engaging if we have a common starting point. Check out Tom's books and videos, and you will have a good foundation for asking questions and exploring your interests in depth:
-Foraging the Mountain West
-Participating in Nature
-Five Months on the Missouri River
-Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series
-Botany in a Day
-Roadmap to Reality
Stay in Contact
To be notified about upcoming additions and changes to our programs, be sure to "Like" our page on Facebook. We'll keep you posted on the immersion program as well as any specific classes we have on stone masonry, house-building, wilderness survival and botany. In addition, we will invite you along on some of our informal canoe trips and walkabouts, so sign up and stay in touch!
Return to the Green University® LLC Home Page
I want to start off thanking you for this unique opportunity that took me out of my own box of thinking, helped me break down limiting beliefs that have held me back from the true freedom that lies within. The true freedom to be who I have always wanted to be, and to live a life that is meaningful and does not keep me tuning out. I have a long way to go, but you have been a mentor, a sort of guide into seeing things in a completely different way than my unsustainable, trapped suburban existence in a city that just kept expanding and relied on more and more resources to keep up.
I grew up in a well-off family that worked for money, and hated their lives and felt more trapped in fear and need, yet they had so much financial means that they never really "lived" they just tirelessly pursued money. My grandfather died very Ill probably from his tireless pursuit of money, living for wealth not beautiful experiences.
This year was like a shedding for me. A shedding of my old beliefs of comfort and consumerism. My first real taste of freedom, my first real taste of what a completely different life could be like. I stepped out of so many beliefs I once held to be true. I learned that I could eat roadkill game, that dumpster food is safer than I once thought (I really never knew just how much food was wasted in grocery stores), that I can brave the cold of Montana in a tent, van, or earthlodge and survive.
I learned to appreciate life, and see it from a different perspective. We deal with death so often at River Camp, it has helped me realize the beauty of life, and the energy it takes to sustain oneself. I feel humbled. I feel grounded in a healthier sense of who I am and what I want from my life.
I am approaching 37 years old next month. I am not as young of a man as I once was but it feels like I am just now seeing life with eyes wide open. The fear to just live has left me, my excitement for adventure and true purpose steadily builds, and I feel like that young boy full of life and enthusiasm.
I truly appreciate you Tom, what you are doing here at Green University and the way you have built your life, and how it inspires others to live their lives in truly unique ways. To take the reins and control their own life. When I came here I knew my life would never be the same, I knew I'd never be able to return to mediocracy, suburban living or the California urban sprawl. I knew when I got here this was a commitment to myself to be something different, to follow my heart's wild desires.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.