For Dee Harley, farm-to-fork is not a movement. It’s a way of life.
What seems remarkable to us is common place to her and the employees of Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero. Award winning goat cheese, bath & body products, honey, goat-milk-based paint, the flowers and herbs that speckle the cheeses, and even the table, chairs, and plates that their from-the-farm-only seasonal meals are served on—everything is made from scratch and yielded from the farm.
“It’s very fundamental,” said Dee 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.”
What the farm is today was a very organic evolution, Harley said. She and her husband bought the farm in the late 1980s, but the 1910 farm that was once one of many dairies along the coast 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 Harley buy goats and 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 4 goats from the cheese maker 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 4, took over the 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 an old hayloft above their 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 a money collection jar and basket of goat cheese left in a small corner outside her house no longer worked, it was time to build the shop.
The 32 acre farm (20 just purchased recently) also has an apple orchard, gardens, bees and rabbits, and will expand their recent venture of goat-milk-based paint derived from natural outdoor pigments. Their hayloft is rented out for private events, including (very) small weddings.
All that activity has the farm starting its day at 6:15 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m. with a second milking or later if they host a dinner or event.
“I love seeing all the buildings alive again and being used, and 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.”
Their monthly and equinox/solstice dinners use the fruits (or harvest) of the season as guests gather around a table made from a tree that fell in a creek and pewter plates made one month at a time as they could afford it. Before dining, guests are treated to a tour of the farm so by the time they arrive upstairs “they understand where they are.” The flower bouquets are from the gardens and the food, Harley said, 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 for which everyone is allowed to experience and interpret for themselves. Much of that experience draws from the pure nature of seeing a working farm creating 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 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 downsized its distribution to only 10 Bay Area locations or online purchase. A beautiful drive down the coast about 20 minutes south of Half Moon Bay is an even better way to experience the cheese—and the farm—for yourself. It really is an incredible place with so many reasons to go.
For more information 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.