Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, California is one of my favorite day trips any time of year, especially when I’m craving organic honey-and-lavender chèvre cheese (it happens). But the best time to go is just after the baby goats are born, like now (early February through early April).
No kidding. I found this out a few weeks ago when we showed up by chance just in time to see these seriously cute creatures. No matter when we go, we enjoy the farm experience, the architecture, the flower garden, the cheese tasting and the adorable shop. The question isn’t really how to have fun here. How could you not?
The first time we visited Harley Farms a few years ago, my son talked us into taking the tour. His devious plan was to catch an unfortunate photo of me squirting warm milk in my face while trying to milk the goats. I got even.
What made me laugh the most? The llama babysitters. Llamas naturally look out for the goats and kick butt when coyotes and other predators come around the paddock. If you stand still enough (during a tour), the llamas may come up and sniff your breath and show your their big buck teeth. A little scary but fun.
Most of the time when we visit we just stroll around the farm to see the goats and llamas in the paddocks, have a seat in the restored hay loft (where they host farm-to-table dinners) and look out over the flower garden and pastures, then head to the cheese shop for goodies to take home. Planning to go for your first visit? Here’s my rundown.
6 Savvy Things To Do at Harley Farms
1. Visit the Goats — The goats, the goats. There are some 200 alpine goats living happily on the farm. What can I say, they are always so fun to see and pet in their pens and large grassy paddock. If you visit between February and April you can also hold baby goats. So sweet! You can kiss a llama while you’re there. I did.
2. Taste Organic Goat Cheese — Seriously, this is the best goat cheese I’ve ever tasted, and it’s so fresh when you get it here. They also sell their award-winning cheeses at California farmer’s markets and in stores like New Leaf, but it never tastes quite as fresh to me. You can self-serve and taste as much cheese on the sourdough bread pieces they set out. The tasting room is beautiful and well designed, with everything tastefully presented.
3. Shop — After tasting till you’re stuffed (yeah we all do it), you can buy your favorite organic cheese made on the farm: Chevre, Feta, Ricotta, and Fromage Blanc. You’ll notice the cheese is not cheap, nor should it be when you see all that goes into it and how beautifully the rounds are presented, some with fresh edible flowers on top from their organic garden. And okay, we don’t mind the price so much after taking little liberties with our tasting. You can also browse other products in the shop, like goat milk lotions and soaps, jellies, honey, truffles, farm fresh eggs, and other satisfying stuff.
4. Take the Tour — Just once, if you have the time, you should take the tour and see what goes on at a working goat cheese farm. Tours last two hours (maybe a half hour too long if you ask me). You’ll get the scoop on Harley history while you’re visiting with the goats (and llamas) in the paddock. And they’ll show you around the place, including the private spaces. You’ll see where the milk goes from goat to curd to cheese. And you can even milk the goats yourself if you want (depending on the milking schedule, of course).
5. Plan a Picnic — Pack a picnic basket or take your cheeses and things and have a snack at one of the tables in the field. This is a very peaceful place and a relaxing opportunity to sit and enjoy the day.
6. Dine Farm to Table — In the restored Victorian-style hayloft upstairs from the cheese shop, amazing candlelight dinners take place at the long fir table and carved chairs. These events feature five-course locally sourced and seasonal meals. Again, not cheap (at $150 per person). But dining in-loft is on my bucket list this year. I’ve heard great things about these little gatherings and can’t wait try it next time I’m in Pescadero. These tend to book up fast, so check their website to see dates and sign up info.
About The Farm
The farm was originally a cow dairy starting back in 1910. In the 1940’s it became a rental that came on hard times. Then Dee Harley bought the farm and added the first few goats that she bought from a friend. The farm grew from six pet goats to today’s 200+ goat herd, and naturally, the organic cheese business. Dee bought the neighboring fields, historic barn, a hidden orchard and overgrown garden in 2011, and began gentle restoration. Dee Harley and her family have lived on the farm for more twenty years.
Savvy Trivia: Harley Farm’s goat cheese is more nutritious than you might think.
- The chevre has only 5.5 grams of fat per ounce (soft cheeses from cows milk are much fattier).
- Goat cheese has more potassium, vitamin A, thiamin and niacin than cow milk cheese (and the same calcium and phosphorus).
- The goats eat hay and grain and get no antibiotics or hormones.
- Harley Farms cheeses are made using vegetable rennet.
Know Before You Go
- Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 10am to 5pm most of the year. Winter hours: Friday to Sunday 11am to 4pm (until kidding season begins in late February).
- Farm & Cheese Shop Daily 10am – 5pm; Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Years Day.
- Address: Harley Farms — 205 North Street, Pescadero, CA 94060; Phone (650) 879-0480; harleyfarms.com.
- Getting there: From HWY One, take Pescadero Creek Road past the Stage Road stop sign. Look for the goats and llamas in the field on your left. Turn left on North Street, drive past the front door and park along the road.
- Savvy Tip: Harley Farms often plans a Mother’s Day Brunch, which could be a great idea for something to do with mom in May.
Photo credits: Images are mine where noted and otherwise courtesy of Harley Farms.