It seemed like it might never happen this spring but we are now able to get out into our gardens and get our green thumbs to work. My peas and first lot of chard are planted but I’m worried that my garlic hasn’t sprouted up yet. I’ve stewed up my first pot of rhubarb from the garden and a pie is waiting to be made.

Farmers’ Markets all across the province are starting up with green asparagus in high demand. Here’s one of my favourite recipes (from New Vegetarian by Robin Asbell, Chronicle Books):

Lemon-Parmesan Asparagus Spears

Olive Oil in a spritzer
2 sheets phyllo dough
4 tbsp finely shredded quality Parmesan
1 tbsp lemon zest
16 Asparagus spears, cleaned and trimmed

Oil a cookie sheet and set aside. Mix cheese and lemon zest together.

Set out phyllo and spritz with olive oil and then sprinkle with cheese mixture. Fold each sheet in half (the cheese will stick to it) and cut into eight, 4-inch-wide pieces. Place a spear diagonally across each piece with the tip just poking out, fold the opposite end up over the base and then roll up. Place with seam side down on the sheet pan.

Bake at 400F until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes. Great for brunch or appetizer accompanied by an Aioli!

While we’ve been having green thoughts the province has been busy with its Land Use Planning Review considering the Greenbelt Plan, the Growth Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. Some of you may have attended the open house last spring that was part of the process of getting input on a number of questions involved in this process. An expert panel reviewed the feedback and produced a recommendations document. The government considered those recommendations and announced the proposed amendments earlier in May: to continue to protect farmland, the natural environment and water resources and promote smart growth. Some areas have been specifically named as included in Greenbelt protection but other areas have not.

These are important issues for all Ontarians even though in Northumberland we feel far from the fray. A coalition of groups across the province have been working together to raise awareness and encourage people to be part of the process to make sure voices supporting protection, not just development, are heard. Groups from Brant, which has just seen over 8,000 acres of mostly farmland be annexed into the city, Waterloo and Simcoe, each facing intense growth pressure from cities in those counties, emphasize the need for smart growth rather than sprawl and for the protection of prime farmland. With the expansion of 407 eastward, additional capacity developed on the 401, and as the GO service pushes further east in the not so distant future, these concerns will grow in Northumberland.

Sustainable Cobourg has been involved since the first round of consultations began and started a Grow the Greenbelt: Northumberland initiative. We held an info session in February and will be holding a second one, Farming in Ontario’s Greenbelt: Possibility Grows Here, on June 14. While the first one looked more at the area, in particular the Oak Ridges Moraine and the rationale behind Greenbelt expansion, this one will explore the implications and opportunities for farms, with Dr. Wayne Caldwell, from the University of Guelph, scheduled to speak, with a Q&A to follow.

You can access his report here.

Our hope is to inform and prepare the Northumberland community in advance of this final round of consultation so citizens can voice their opinion about the type of growth they hope to see in Northumberland.

Be part of the conversation: tell the province what you think!

For a final round of the consultation, which will go until September 30th, the government will host 11 open houses and conduct 4 technical briefings for stakeholders. In eastern Ontario: Oshawa Open House, June 23 at Durham College, or Peterborough Open House, June 28 at the Evinrude Centre. Online you can submit your comments on the proposed revised plans for the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review by September 30, 2016 here.

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Jayne Finn has had the environment top of mind for most of her life. She is currently the Vice President of Sustainable Cobourg, Art Director for Lake Simcoe Living magazine, a multiple-time winner of an environmental media award, an avid bird watcher and gardener. She has made Cobourg her home for 13 years.