Califonia Bountiful

Bay Area farmer finds niche with "poor man's cow"

San Mateo County offers some of the Bay Area's best scenery but it also has a landscape rich with agricultural history.

San Mateo County offers some of the Bay Area's best scenery but it also has a landscape rich with agricultural history. Dairy farms were big here about 50 years ago, though today there is only one in operation and it features goats milked for cheese.

Did you know that the goat is second only to the dog in being the longest domesticated animal in the world? In fact, more people in the world drink goat milk than cow milk. The goat has been called "the poor man's cow" because it is smaller, takes less food, but yet provides ample milk for a family. These are just some of the reasons Dee Harley decided to go into the goat dairy business. She came over from England about 15 years ago, and started her goat dairy with only six goats. Today she has nearly 300 goats roaming her 12-acre Pescadero farm. Built at the turn of the century, the farm features structures dating back as far as 1910. Originally owned by a Portuguese family, the farm was a cow dairy and while some of the buildings were renovated in 1999, the old barn remains the heart of the dairy. Besides making cheese, one of the tasks at the Harley Farm is educating about cheese. Various school groups are regular visitors to the farm and on any given day you can see kids handling and milking goats, and most importantly, getting a hands-on lesson of where cheese comes from.

The motto around this farm is "happy goats make good cheese," so the animals' welfare is the top priority here. A stress-free environment and mild feed help make superior milk. And the herd even has a guard on duty all day: "Bart," the llama. The goats are milked 16 at a time, at 5 am and 5 pm every day. Nearly 220 pounds of goat cheese are made each day here. There are several varieties to choose from, including tomato-basil and apricot-pistachio. Their "Monet" and "Van Goat" cheeses even feature edible flowers grown in Dee's garden.

Harley Farms has won several American Cheese Society awards and are served in restaurants and upscale retail stores across the country. One of Harley Farms biggest fans is Peter Rudolph of the Navio Restaurant at the nearby Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay. He even visits the farm to get ideas for new and exciting dishes.

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