For Dee Harley, farm-to-fork is not a movement. It’s a way of life.
That’s because at Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero everything is made from scratch or yielded from the farm. From the award-winning goat cheeses to the bath & body products to the flowers and herbs that speckle the cheeses, and even to the table, chairs, and plates that serve their seasonal, farm-harvested meals—every item is sourced from the land that the dairy inhabits.
“It’s very fundamental,” said Harley, owner of Harley Farms. “We can say farm to fork, farm to table, hoof to harvest, or whatever we’re gonna make up next, but that, to me, is real…we live the life everyday.”
Harley Farms was an organic evolution. The 1910 farm was once one of many diaries along the coast, but when Harley and her husband purchased the dairy in the late 1980s, it hadn’t been in operation since the 1950s. The buildings were in disrepair, the fences broken, and the farm described by Harley as a lifeless place.
The idea to get the farm up and running again came at the suggestion of a cheese maker in Davenport who suggested that Harley buy the cheese maker’s goats so that Harley could sell the milk to her. Harley knew absolutely nothing about taking care of goats or goat milking, but she liked the idea of seeing the farm productive again. So she bought four goats and started an adventure now almost 25 years in the making.
“When I look back, [I realize] I learned how to do everything very deeply and slowly,” Harley said. “I had to do everything myself.”
Eventually the farm, which now has 200 pure-bred goats from the same original four, took on cheese making. They create a variety of flavors of chèvre, formage blanc, feta, and full milk ricotta. They also have two-hour tours of the dairy and host seasonal dinners in the old hayloft above the shop.
The shop was born out of necessity after Harley tired of having her personal life interrupted by strangers knocking on her door looking to buy goat cheese. When it no longer worked to have basket of goat cheese and a money collection jar left in a small corner outside her house, it was time to build the shop.
The 32-acre farm (20 of which were purchased recently) also has an apple orchard, gardens, bees and rabbits, and will expand with their recent venture of goat-milk-based paint derived from natural outdoor pigments. The hayloft is rented out for private events, including (very) small weddings.
All that activity has everyone at the farm starting their day at 6:15 a.m. and ending a with a second milking at 9 p.m.–or later if they host a dinner or event.
“I love seeing all the buildings alive again and being used for what they were built for,” said Harley. “I really enjoy that kind of rhythm and the energy…I like the field being used, and the grass being grazed on, and the productivity of it all.”
Their monthly and equinox/solstice dinners tout the harvest of the season as guests gather around a table made from a tree that fell in a creek on the farm. The pewter plates that strewn the table were made one month at a time as Harley and her husband could afford it. Before dining, guests are treated to a tour of the farm so that by the time they arrive upstairs “they understand where they are.” The flower bouquets are from the gardens, and the food, Harley says, is not exaggerated, but real and fundamental.
“Everything they touch is real. Everything they touch has gone through some kind of history and some kind of story,” said Harley. “There’s a nostalgia for [guests]. It takes them to a place of happiness in their lives. It’s calm. It’s like you’re coming to my home for dinner—which effectively you are.”
Harley identified the atmosphere of both the dinner and the farm as a feeling of which everyone is allowed to experience and interpret for themselves. Much of that experience draws from the pure nature of seeing a working farm that creates products only from the ingredients and provisions of the environment around it.
“I see the goats going out in the pasture when I’m drinking my coffee in the morning and if I’m having a hard day or if I’m financially strapped, I see that and I think it’s all worth it,” Harley said. “It’s the little things that keep you going…it’s a choice of how you live your life. And this is the kind of life I want to live.”
Harley Farms’ goods are available for online purchase, at a handful of Bay Area stores, and at the farm itself. To truly experience their products, we recommend seeing the farm for yourself by taking the beautiful drive down Highway 1, about 20 minutes south of Half Moon Bay. It really is an incredible place with so many reasons to go.
For more information about Harley Farms or to reserve a tour or dinner, visit harleyfarms.com.
Photos except featured photo and garden by Bethany Harris. Additional photos provided by Harley Farms.