Springtime on the Farm

As the days become longer and the chill of winter gives way to the warmth of spring, optimism and hope abound for farmers like Paul Vickers, a second generation dairy farmer in Meaford, Ontario.

By Stacey Stein

As the days become longer and the chill of winter gives way to the warmth of spring, optimism and hope abound for farmers like Paul Vickers, a second generation dairy farmer in Meaford, Ontario.

“Everything is possible in the spring,” says Vickers, who was born and raised on the farm. Vickers lives on the farm with his family, including his four children.

Spring marks the start of the growing year and it’s also when decisions are made that will affect the year ahead. Farmers decide which crops to plant and, most importantly, when exactly to plant them.

“It’s an exciting time – you’re putting in new feed for the cows,” says Vickers, who also serves as Chair of the Board for Gay Lea Foods. “I might decide to grow corn and soybeans – I only get to make that decision once a year. What you do in the spring sets you up for the rest of the year.”

The decision making process is especially crucial because farmers must plant crops at just the right time. Planting too late can affect the yield of the crops, and poor quality feed will affect the cows’ production.

More calves tend to be born in the spring, and this is another cause for optimism on the farm. As Vickers explains, farmers hope that the baby calves – which he describes as “the next generation” – will be even more productive than their mothers. 

“That’s what you strive for,” says Vickers. “You try and breed your best cows to the best possible bulls hoping to make a better calf. When that calf is born that’s going to be your future and that’s very exciting.”

And having productive cows is ultimately good news for consumers of Gay Lea products, something that is also satisfying for farmers like Vickers.

“When you produce a quality product, there’s a lot of pride in knowing that it will be something that people will truly enjoy consuming,” he says.

Eat local this spring

We’re fortunate to have local milk and dairy products available all year round thanks to our dairy farmers, but with spring’s arrival, we can also start enjoying several local fruits and vegetables.

This makes the season an ideal time to do some spring cleaning with our diets.

“When spring comes people tend to move away from casseroles and thick, comforting soups and stews,” says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker. “It’s the perfect time to move into lighter dishes like stir fries, salads and quiches.”

By eating locally and seasonally, we’re not only supporting our farmers and local growers, we’re also consuming foods closer to the time they’re picked which means they retain more nutrients.

Spring’s bounty includes rhubarb, radishes, asparagus, spinach, Swiss chard, fiddleheads and some varieties of strawberries. Greenhouse tomatoes and peppers are available as early as March, while greenhouse lettuce and cucumbers are available all year round.

Spring produce – most of which is high in vitamin C, as Crocker points out – is versatile and easy to incorporate in a number of recipes. Here are a few ideas for simple and healthy springtime dishes.


Crocker recommends taking advantage of in-season rhubarb by lightly stewing it, then layering it with cottage cheese and granola or toasted oats, and finally adding a drizzle of maple syrup for a rhubarb cottage cheese breakfast parfait. 

Another way to incorporate rhubarb and cottage cheese into your breakfast is by baking both ingredients into an omelette or pancake (this can make for a great lunch too.) 


Salads not only make for a healthy and satisfying lunch, they’re also a great way to incorporate a range of seasonal produce into your diet. For a light but filling lunch, you can try a quinoa salad with grilled veggies and cottage cheese – feel free to add in some steamed asparagus, seasonal radishes or Swiss chard.

You can make an interesting spring salad by roasting rhubarb with honey, tossing it onto some spinach or Swiss chard, and adding in some grilled asparagus and peppers. Top this off with walnuts, cheddar or cottage cheese and toss with a light lemony vinaigrette. 


Go light at dinner with a pasta toss that features asparagus – you can also swap the asparagus for fiddleheads, which are in season in late April/early May. Locally grown veggies also make for the perfect spring side dish. Peppers are the star of this southwestern pepper medley, or you can make a simple and colourful side dish by sautéing radishes in some butter. For a tasty appetizer that balances sweet and savoury, try grilled crostini topped with cheddar and cottage cheese and some fresh Ontario strawberries – this also makes for a delicious light lunch or snack.

Wondering when local fruits and vegetables are in season? You can find out here: http://www.ontario.ca/foodland/availability-guide


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