Over the past couple of years I have been hearing about a dairy farm in the seaside town of Pescadero that raises their own goats and makes delicious cheese from their milk. I heard how charming the dairy was and that they had a real lovely cheese shop. So I decided to go visit Harley Farms this spring after the baby goats were born. What a fabulous surprise awaiting my arrival! Harley Farms was all that I had heard it to be and a whole lot more.
But I am not going to get ahead of myself in telling you the tale of my farm visit. No, I am going to start at this tale’s beginning, which is with a young lady from England with an American dream.
Dee Harley is the gracious owner of Harley Farms. She was born and raised in Yorkshire England. She, as well, is a coal miner’s daughter, and her mother worked in the local bread shop. She grew up surrounded by agriculture and farming and always knew that her destiny would be in farming. When Dee was eighteen, her parents went on holiday without her. Having an adventurous teenage spirit, Dee applied for a job with the YMCA in the San Juan Islands in Washington State as a bicycle tour guide, which she received. She left England that summer for an American adventure and never returned to live in England again. After her summer job was over, Dee and a few girlfriends purchased an old beat up car and began to work their way down the coast of Washington, Oregon, and into California where they eventually stopped in Pescadero and stayed at the Youth Hostel at the lighthouse. One night she heard music playing off in the distance and decided to follow the sound. It brought her to a small cottage on the bluff where she found a man playing the accordion. They sat and talked into the evening, sipped tea, and shared stories and adventures. This man was Three Fingered Bil who has become Dee’s life long best friend.
Dee decided to stay in Pescadero and got a job at the local restaurant where she met a young man named Tim. The two of them fell in love and were married. Dee and Tim eventually purchased their first home, which was a dilapidated old dairy farm built in 1910 which was on the outskirts of town. It had long since been used as a dairy but it had a charming little house where they could raise their young son Ben.
One day a friend of Dee’s named Nancy who raised goats and made cheese, came to visit Dee. Nancy looked out at the old pasture and suggested to Dee that she buy six of her goats. Dee thought this would be a good way for her to stay at home with her son and to work. Dee purchased the six goats and began the process of slowly repairing the old dairy. Within time, Dee purchased Nancy’s entire herd of thirty goats.
Daily, Dee would rise at 6 AM to begin her chore of milking the goats by hand. She would have a few hours off in the middle of the day before it would be time to milk the goats all over again in the evening. Each goat produced one gallon of milk a day, which Dee delivered to Nancy to make cheese. She eventually had to purchase a milking machine to help her with the growing population of goats that were now living at the farm. As the herd grew bigger so did Dee’s business. Dee realized she needed help and hired her first employee Roberto who is still with her today as the farm manager. Her second employee she hired was Salud, who trained with Nancy for a year to learn to make cheese. Salud is still with Harley Farms and is the head cheese maker.
Dee opened an on site cheese shop to offer their fresh cheese to the tourists that came to the farm. Like all things at the farm, the shop grew organically from a humble room with plywood walls to the charming art and antique filled space that it occupies today. The shop sells all the various cheeses that Harley Farms makes as well as their farm honey, olive oil infusions, and relishes and jellies. The goat cheese they sell are chevre’, ricotta, feta, fromage blanc, as well as their ricotta ravioli. The chevre’ can be purchased plain or with herbs, flowers, honey and lavender, apricots and pistachios, dried cranberries and walnuts, or with sun dried tomatoes. Their cheese is absolutely delicious and so very beautiful! Their cheese shop is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.
If you don’t live close to Pescadero you can order Harley Farms products on their website where they will ship to your home. In addition, you can purchase their cheese and products at the Half Moon Bay Farmers’ Market, at specialty food markets such as Robert’s Market in Woodside, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and Draeger’s Markets in the San Francisco bay area. Their products can also be ordered from Good Eggs, which is an online Farmers’ Market. Good Eggs delivers their preordered groceries to various locations for you to pick up in the San Francisco bay area, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and coming soon to Los Angeles. Good Eggs can also deliver your groceries to your doorstep for an additional flat rate of $3.99.
Today Dee keeps her Alpine American Goat population at 200, which graze on nine lush acres of grass. The farm operation now occupies three barns and a few out buildings, which include milking stations, birthing stalls and pens, a cheese making kitchen and pasteurization room, an adorable cheese shop, a kitchen for farm dinners, a rustic hay loft dining room for private dinner parties, and their Farm Shop that sells their beautiful farm paint and luscious goat milk body products, as well as other local hand made artisan wares. They have a gorgeous flower garden where they grow all their own edible flowers for decorating the floral chevre’: such as calendula, borage, viola, salvia, pinks, cornflower, and lavender.
I was the lucky one to have access to the baby and mamma goats for my photo shoot. I was permitted to get in the pen with the kids where I knelt down to photograph them at their level. To my surprise, the kids came spastically running up to me like puppies and climbed up on my leg and back to be close. The kids started sucking my hair, and chewing on my shirt, and sticking their wet noses in my camera’s lens! All I could do was laugh!
I adored the moment….
Dee’s life long best friend Three Fingered Bil has left his handprint everywhere at Harley Farms too. He is a wood working folk artist who has made all the colorful and fun signage, doors, gates, and beautiful furniture throughout the farm. His artwork provides so much color and whimsy, which make it so fun to explore the farm during your visit. Dee’s British roots are very present at the farm too, which I found so charming and personal. Harley Farms has a great aesthetic and a real good feeling to it. It is a place where you feel at home and are compelled to sit down at one of their picnic tables, nibble on some cheese and bread, stay for a while, and be a peace.
Next week I will be posting part two of this Harley Farms article where I will share with you all the new and exciting additions to the farm, which will include food photography and recipes.
205 North Street
P.O. Box 173
Pescadero, California 94060
Cheese Shop open Thursday through Sunday from 10AM to 5PM
GOOD EGGS Online Farmers’ Market