Harley Farms Goat Dairy | Pescadero
The white wooden gate to the garden swung shut, the metal latch clanging against itself. It's was an unusually warm day in Pescadero - 80 degrees and sunny. So warm in fact, that when our tour guide shooed the goats out of the loafing barn to say hi, half of them immediately turned back around once her shooing stopped to return to the shade. The other half was so excited to see us that they all peed at the same time, in a row. We were at Harley Goat Farms in Pescadero for the adult-only tour of the farm and it had already exceeded my expectations.
Pescadero is about an hour and fifteen minute drive from San Francisco along Highway 1. You know it's time to turn left off Highway 1 and inland towards Pescadero when you see a large wooden sign that reads "Historic Pescadero. Est. 1856. 2 Miles."
Harley Farms is easy to find from there, even if your GPS stops loading because you have no service. All of the buildings on the farm are from the original cow dairy farm that was established in the early 1900's. In 1949, that farm went under due to competition from large scale farms that began to spring up in the 30's and 40's. Twenty five years ago the current owners bought the property without any intention to use it as a farm, but after a series of coincidental events have been running a successful goat dairy farm for the last 23 years.
The "girls", as our tour guide affectionately called the female goats, were lovely. Since they are free to graze and feed at their leisure, they approach people purely for affection and company, often scratching their heads on a hip or in some cases, a butt cheek. The real highlight of the visit though, were the "teenage girls" - female goats born that spring who still have their baby faces.
While in the pasture, with goats by our sides, our guide taught us about the breeding process and the interesting year they had this past year. At Harley Farms, September is breeding season and May is kidding season, with baby goats arriving as early as February and as late as May (read: if you want to see baby goats, book your tour February - May). To have goats that produce milk, the girls need to have babies. And the girls at Harley Farms have anywhere from 200 to 300 kids per year!
In 2014, the farm unfortunately lost its buck (you only need one) and had to get a new one for the ladies. In comes Coltrane, a buck purchased from Red Hill Farms up north. The people at Harley Farms let Coltrane get acquainted with the girls to help the breeding process - you know, lick their pee to see they are at the right time of the month, strut his stuff, those sorts of things. But Coltrane wasn't making any music. The owner began to worry because if the girls didn't get pregnant, there would be no milk for the next year, which would mean no cheese, which would mean no business.
They purchased two bucklings to see if one of them couldn't get the job done. Bruno Mars, the little buckling that he was, got right to work. The girls loved him. The only problem was that in his youth, he was having trouble sealing the deal. The other buckling didn't make any progress at all, so it seemed it would be up to Bruno Mars. After about two weeks, Bruno Mars came through and saved the day. Come February, the very beginning of the kidding season, more than 100 little goats were running around the farm.
Bruno Mars makes the girls happy and so does the milking. They know exactly what to do when the time comes. At 5:00am, they walk up, stick their head through a wooden contraption, wait for the milking machine to be hooked up, are milked for about two minutes and then giddily hop down the ramp back to pasture. Once the goats are milked, the milk travels through a pipe to the cheese making room where it is slow pasteurized and made into cheese.
Now that we had met the goats, heard about the breeding process, saw where they are milked, and learned how cheese is made, it was time to taste the finished product. Our guide led us up to the hay loft - an open wooden room with a long wooden table in the center and benches surrounding the perimeter - to taste goat cheese with berries, goat cheese with chives and plain goat cheese. A stairway from the hay loft led us directly to the gift shop where we stocked up on cheese, jam and honey.
Cost: $20 per person
Harley Farms Goat Dairy | 205 North Street, Pescadero, CA 94060 | 650.879.0480 | www.harleyfarms.com