Volunteering with the Esalen Farm and Garden
Volunteering with the Esalen Farm and Garden Crew is a wonderful way to support the work that we do while experiencing the magic of growing food on the Esalen land. We strive to meet each day of work with gratitude and appreciation for the constantly evolving circle of hands that come together in loving support for our Farm and Garden. We welcome all levels of growing experience. The only requirements are an observant mind, a curious spirit, a love of dirty hands, and a willingness to work hard. See the application process and cancellation policy below.
Terms of Volunteerism
In exchange for your work, you will receive same-day privileges on property, including access to the baths and free movement classes (as available). Volunteerism also includes breakfast (9:15 - 9:45 am), lunch (1:15 - 1:45 pm) and dinner (6:00 - 7:30 pm). You do not need to pay fees for your meals or facility use. We are unable to offer staff discounts on bodywork or in the bookstore — please do not ask.
You are welcome to check in with the gate as early as 6:30 am on the day you are volunteering. After volunteering, you are welcome to stay on the main site until 9:00 pm to enjoy meals, the baths and free movement classes — but you must leave property by 9:00 pm sharp.
Flow of the Volunteer Day
Our workday starts in the Garden. We will gather in its center, the “Buddha garden”, at 7:15 am, meditate briefly and then commence the day’s harvest, washing, and delivery of our fresh produce to the Kitchen. We will break for a 30-minute breakfast in the Lodge around 9:15 am. After breakfast, we check in as a group with ourselves and each other before continuing work. After the check-in, we work until 1:15 pm in either the Farm or Garden.
The Esalen Farm and Garden Experience
We invite you to explore working with our land and crew as physical, emotional, and spiritual experience. As in Esalen work tradition, Gestalt awareness practice integrates into our day, supporting our growth processes and group dynamic. A short morning meditation in the Buddha Garden connects us with the land and brings us into intentional presence for a rich harvest. Before the day of working and learning, we gather in a brief sharing circle to connect with ourselves and each other more fully.
Scheduling a Volunteer Day
Volunteers can work with our crew on weekdays from 7:15 am to 1:15 pm year-round (with only a few exceptions).
Since volunteer spots are limited in general, scheduling with as much advance notice as possible is recommended. We are currently booking volunteer reservations up 30 days in advance.
At least one week in advance of your desired volunteer day, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with:
- The full name/s of yourself and anyone else in your party requesting to volunteer.
- Your phone/email contact information.
- Please include the date(s) requested in the subject of your email.Several date options are ideal so we can choose based on what fits in best with our schedule and work flow.
- If you absolutely cannot make it on a weekday and wish to volunteer on a weekend day instead, please ask us for availability and hours, as they vary and are extremely limited.
- A few sentences about why you would like to have the experience of volunteering in the Esalen Farm and Garden,
- your level of experience with gardening or farming,
- where and/or what you will be joining us from, and
- where you plan to stay overnight (if will need to travel some distance to be here).
- An acknowledgement of the terms of volunteerism (above).
Cancellation Policy: Please cancel all volunteer reservations with 5-day notice. This allows us to schedule someone to take your spot, and prevents us from turning others down unnecessarily. While we try to be as flexible as possible, we will not schedule, cancel, and rebook volunteers.
Therefore it is important that you figure out your dates before making a volunteer reservation request. After receiving your email, we will respond to let you know which date works, and if not, we will supply some alternative options. We tend to respond to inquiries all at once, about once a week.
Our work in the field comes first, so please be patient and feel free to follow up (by email preferably) if you haven't heard from us within a week. Email is our preferred means of communication. Not adhering to volunteer reservation guidelines in your email may delay the processing time. Priority given to those whom comply with our guidelines as stated above.
Please plan to arrive at Esalen by 7:00 am to park and prepare for the day. We ask that volunteers park in the parking lot just south of the main entrance sign (on Highway One) then walk down the main driveway to check in with the Front Gate. Let them know that you are signed up as a Farm and Garden volunteer. You do not have to pay any fees for your volunteerism. The gate guard will show you how to find the garden.
We ask that all volunteers be present in the Garden at the start of our day, 7:15 am. If you are travelling quite a distance to Esalen that day, please let us know if this arrival time is not realistic for you and when you would be able to arrive (please no later than 8:00 am).
If your plan or schedule changes (or you are going to be late) on the day of your volunteering, please make an effort to call and let us know (831-667-3078) as we will be expecting you.
Road Closures and Delays
Please be advised that Big Sur often has major road issues and delays, especially in the rainier seasons. There are currently road delays to the north and south of Esalen, so please factor some delay time (up to 30 minutes) into your travel plans. Daily roadwork schedules are subject to change due to weather conditions and other factors. We recommend checking the Highway One Cambria to Carmel Toll-Free Hotline (888-836-0866) before your departure to ensure that Highway One is open and accessible to Esalen.
What to Bring
The Farm and Garden has tools, hats, sunblock, mud boots, and gloves available for volunteer use. However, we encourage volunteers to bring their preferred clothing and tools for being comfortable during a day of Farm and Garden work. We encourage you to dress in layers in that the temperature may fluctuate throughout the day. Please wear closed-toe comfortable shoes or boots that you are willing to get dirty and possibly wet. A water bottle is essential.
Esalen cannot provide accommodations for volunteers, and volunteers are not allowed to stay on property past 9:00 pm. There are various campgrounds and hotels in and around Big Sur, as well as the option to car camp along the side of Highway One. Car camping is not permitted on Esalen property or directly outside of Esalen on Highway One. If space is available, you are welcome to book a personal retreat room on the Esalen property; please call 831-667-3005 to check availability or make a reservation.
To find out about options for Big Sur campgrounds, check the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce camping guide. We strongly recommend making reservations if possible. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the nearest campground to Esalen (only 1.5 miles north), but it has only two hike-in camp sites and no bathroom facilities. If you are coming from the north, good camping options are Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Riverside Campground, Big Sur Campground & Cabins, or Fernwood. If you are coming from the south, good options are Limekiln, Plaskett Creek, Nacimiento, or Treebones Resort.
We are located 12 miles south of Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway One). For driving directions, as well as a map and information on shuttle services, please go here.