Esalen's location on the coast of Big Sur means the Farm and Garden grows year-round in a cool, coastal climate. While we strive to maintain continuity in our curriculum for each apprentice session, the seasonal growing context is not traditional for agriculture and does inform slightly different educational content for each session. This should be considered when choosing which Apprentice Session to apply for.
Session One (January through April): January through March is often our rainiest time of year, yet it also features some of the most beautiful sunny and warm days as well. In 2011, we had almost twenty inches of rain in February and March. We sneak early plantings of kale, collards, chard, late winter cover crop, and direct-seeded leafy greens whenever we can. We tend and harvest the overwintered vegetables, which are the most delicious of the season. We build things, organize our systems, and make merry in the rain. Late March into April begins our spring cycle of tractor work, tillage and soil preparation.
Session Two (April through October): The summer growing season gets underway slowly starting around February and ramping up around the time of apprentice arrival in April. Since the winter rains are often most intense in March, we look forward to the soil dry-down in April to begin our spring tractor work. We mow and incorporate the winter cover crops, start seeds in the greenhouse (a lot of them) then move them out of the nursery to transplant in the field. As the season proceeds, we enjoy a continuous harvest throughout the Spring and Summer months until September, when we begin to turn the long season summer crops over and plant our more compact winter garden. The last weeks of the Spring apprenticeship are focused on the winter soil preparation and overwintered veggie plantings.
Session Three (October through January): October is the time for final winter plantings of long season crops (i.e., kale, chard, collards, etc.) and also time for the planting of winter cover crop. Much of the first month will be spent attending to these two activities. The rainy season might slowly begin to appear, although we often enjoy summery, sunny weather in October and November. Onward into November, December, and January, wintery (i.e. windy and rainy) weather often appears. We take care of the plants in the ground and winterize the Farm and Garden. This is also the time that we can begin to tackle some of our infrastructure projects and organization for the coming year. The beginning of January of 2011 was almost rain-free.