Farm Share: Workshops galore at the HAY Conference

  • Shahid Jalil and Craig Lavarreda from Sidehill Farm display an Indian cheese known as paneer during Hawlemont Regional School’s HAY Conference on April 28. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Hawlemont Regional School student Sierra Upton gives a tour during the school’s HAY Conference on April 28. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Dylan Schnorr and fourth-grade teacher Amber Tulloch melt beeswax during Hawlemont Regional School’s HAY Conference on April 28. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Sue Wood samples one of her baked doughnuts during Hawlemont Regional School’s HAY Conference on April 28. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Tinky Weisblat in her Hawley kitchen. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Rain water collection. Carpentry. Composting. Fermenting kombucha. Babysitting. Poultry care. These were some of the many workshop topics at Hawlemont Regional School’s third annual HAY Conference on April 28.

Teachers, students and community members gathered for three different workshop periods, plus a tasty lunch that featured food grown on school grounds via Hawlemont’s successful HAY (Hawlemont Agriculture and You) program.

I was lucky enough to attend three different workshops: one on making the Indian cheese known as paneer, one on creating low-sugar jam and one on making household products from bee products. I also peeked in on a couple of other workshops: one on baking doughnuts and one on making goat milk soap.

All of the sessions I witnessed had small audiences — between three and eight people — which proved ideal for hands-on learning. I started in the kitchen with Shahid Jalil and Craig Lavarreda from Sidehill Farm for the paneer class.

Our group was able to crowd in around the pot of milk destined to become paneer so that we got a good sense of what to look for when we made our own cheese at home.

Jalil was clearly a big fan of the cheese we were making. He explained that he makes it at least once a week and suggested ways in which we could spice it up. (Paneer is a non-melting cheese that is versatile but bland; it relies on and absorbs accompanying flavors. I call it the tofu of cheeses.)

While the paneer was on hiatus, I popped into the cafeteria where Sue Wood and her students were happily kneading dough that would become baked doughnuts. They generously invited the rest of us to partake of the final product.

Like Jalil and Lavarreda, Wood exhibited passion both for the process of creating food and for imparting her knowledge about that food.

If the day had a hero — other than the school’s agricultural educator Jean Bruffee, who seemed to be everywhere at once — that hero was the teacher of my second workshop, Sherry Hager.

Hager was confined to a wheelchair after foot surgery, but still managed to lead her class through the process of creating flavorful low-sugar jam. I have already broken into the first of the delicious jars I brought home.

After lunch, student Sierra Upton led a group around the grounds to show off the library garden, a lovely space for outdoor reading and study; the greenhouse, resplendent with bright green plants eager to go into the ground; and the large runs for animals and chickens.

According to Upton, each class at Hawlemont has its own agricultural responsibilities. All of the students take turns cleaning up after the cows, sheep and goats.

My final workshop of the day involved bee products and was led by fourth-grade teacher Amber Tulloch. Tulloch is the school’s official beekeeper, and clearly cares about bees and their products.

Offering us a sample of honey butter (which is exactly what it sounds like, butter flavored with honey), she said simply, “This will change your life.” I think she may be right.

Under her tutelage, young Dylan Schnorr, his mother, Lisa, and I created beeswax candles and reusable sandwich wraps made of beeswax-coated muslin. I loved working in Tulloch’s classroom, which featured colorful nature scenes on all of its walls.

I know I would have loved her had she been my teacher in school; she was patient, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

In the room across the hall from our class, Amber’s sister Jazzmyn Tulloch led a group of all ages in making soap. My friend, Esther Haskell, proudly showed me her lavender and sandalwood soaps later in the day.

On the way out, it was hard to resist purchasing some of the Hawlemont students’ products: cards that featured woven designs created on their looms, honey, maple syrup, pasta sauce, bread, eggs and more. I happily splurged.

The day as a whole not only showed off the school’s commitment to agriculture and the community, it also educated and inspired those of us adults who participated. I plan to return next year to learn more. In the meantime, I hope to attend Hawlemont’s School Celebration on Friday, May 18.

Sue Wood’s Baked Doughnuts

Wood kindly provided me with her simple and tasty baked doughnut recipe. She explained that she has been baking her doughnuts ever since she learned that it takes the human body three whole days to digest fried doughnuts.


cup warm water

2 packages dry yeast

1½ cups milk

cup shortening

¼ cup sugar

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. nutmeg

2 eggs

4½ cups flour

Melted butter, cinnamon sugar and/or confectioner’s sugar as needed

Place the warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over it, and let the yeast dissolve for five minutes.

Heat the milk and the shortening together until the shortening melts. Let this mixture cool until it is just warm and then add it to the yeast mixture.

Stir in the sugar, salt, nutmeg, eggs and two cups of the flour. Add the remaining flour and beat the mixture until it is smooth.

Cover the bowl, and let it rise until it doubles (about one hour).

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface — the dough will be sticky! — and roll it into a circle that is ½-inch thick.

Grease a large baking sheet. Use a three-inch doughnut cutter to cut the dough. Place the doughnuts on the sheet at least an inch apart.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and let the doughnuts rise and rest for another 20 minutes.

Bake the doughnuts until they are lightly browned (about 10 minutes). The precise baking time will depend on your oven.

Remove them from the oven, brush them with melted butter, and sprinkle either cinnamon sugar or melted butter on top.

“These doughnuts practically melt in your mouth, they are so light,” Wood said.

Makes 12 to 14 doughnuts.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.