Happy, healthy goats make good cheese. That's the philosophy of Dee Harley, owner of Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, Calif.
Seventeen years ago, this native of Yorkshire, England, started her goat dairy with six American Alpine goats. Today, 200 goats pass their days leisurely grazing on a tasty blend of a dozen grasses and their nights snuggled in the restored barn. Milked at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., each goat produces a gallon of milk a day, enough to make a pound of cheese. The farm's location, about 50 miles southwest of San Francisco, is ideal for producing tangy chevre.
"The secret ingredient is the salty air from the coast two miles away," confides Harley.
The farm's rich full-fat ricotta is sold to high-end restaurants in the Bay Area. Flavorful feta and fromage blanc are also popular, but chèvre is the bestseller. It's shaped into rounds and studded with dried apricots and pistachios or adorned with brilliant edible flowers from the farm's garden. The cheese is the epitome of fresh—it takes two and a half days from udder to packaged product.
The farm offers tours and tastings to educate visitors about how cheese is made. Guests are encouraged to decorate and sample freshly made chèvre.
"When people finish the tour, they leave with a piece of us," says Harley. "It's about having a personal relationship with the food that you eat."
By June D. Bell.