goat & friends at Harley Farms, Pescadero, Calif.

Harley Farms’ goats enjoy a touch of human kindness.

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Chevre is French for goat but also for all manner of delicious cheeses coaxed from the animal’s milk. And there’s no better time to visit goat dairies than now, when young grasses bestow extra sweetness. Some let you help milk, feed, or pet the herd (including the kids). Best, they offer samples of fresh cheese. Call ahead.

AMALTHEIA ORGANIC DAIRY Belgrade, Mont. With a herd of 400, this certified organic dairy at the foot of the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman encourages volunteers to help bottle-feed newborns. Seven cheeses to taste include a fragrant Perigord black truffle chevre. (406) 388-0569, www.amaltheiadairy.com.

FRAGA FARM GOAT CHEESE Sweet Home, Ore. Watch the only certified organic goat dairy in Oregon produce small batches of raw-milk cheddar, feta, chevre, and "goatzarella" through a six-foot viewing window. (541) 367-3891, www.fragafarm.com.

HARLEY FARMS GOAT DAIRY Pescadero, Calif. Cheeses from milk produced on-site are shaped here in an antique barn. Varieties include fresh Chevre topped with edible flowers (Monet) and layered with sunflower seeds (Van Goat). The key ingredient? Salty air from the sea three miles away. (650) 879-0480, www.harleyfarms.com.

PHOLIA FARM Rogue River, Ore. This solar-powered dairy raises Nigerian dwarf goats, whose extrarich milk bolsters aged cheeses such as Hillis Peak, rubbed with olive oil and paprika. (541) 582-8883, www.pholiafarm.com.

REDWOOD HILL FARM Sebastopol, Calif. The nation’s first humane-certified dairy goats await a pat on the head. On Farm Days, taste fresh yogurt and new releases such as this year’s Gravenstein Gold, an aged, raw-milk cheese washed in cider. (707) 823-4790, www.redwoodhill.com.

SURFING GOAT DAIRY Kula, Maui. The goats really do ride surfboards outside their stalls on the slopes of Haleakala. At the cheese shop, taste and see why the dairy’s motto is Da Feta Mo’ Betta. Choose a 30-minute, one-hour, or two-hour tour. (808) 878-2870, www.surfinggoatdairy.com.

Photography by Robert Holmes

This article was first published in May 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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