This week Orcadian journalist and former winner of the TV show Big Brother Cameron Stout tells the Scottish Farmer about his recent trip to some farms in Canada. It must be an islander thing. I’m just back from three weeks in Canada – about a week each in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto - and the highlight of the whole trip was Ile d’Orleans (Orleans Island).

A ten-mile drive from downtown Quebec City, the mainly French-speaking island is accessed by a two-and-three-quarter mile-long suspension bridge, opened in 1935.

The island itself is about twenty miles long and five miles wide, with a road right around and a couple leading across the low hills in the middle. Its 7000 inhabitants are spread among six municipalities. As you drive around, other than the artists’ workshops, antique shops and eateries (best ice cream in the province!) dotted around the roadside, the whole place is given over to growing. There’s a Law for the Protection of Agricultural Land in place that means ninety percent of the island must be reserved for agri purposes.

No surprise then that it is known as “the garden of Quebec”. And it is easy to see why. The six municipalities grow strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples, as well as producing maple syrup and tatties. We were there at the wrong time of year to see maple production in action (“tapping” season is normally February to April) but the young son at the farm where we stopped was keen to try out his English and explained the different grades and shades of the local amber (or “golden”, or “dark” or “very dark”) nectar.

The Scottish Farmer: Ferme Francois Gosselin on the Ile d'Orleans not too far from Quebec City - principally a strawberry and raspberry producer, and they do maple products tooFerme Francois Gosselin on the Ile d'Orleans not too far from Quebec City - principally a strawberry and raspberry producer, and they do maple products too

I had noticed a line of grey-painted US-style school buses parked up on the farm tracks, and rows and rows of warm-clad folk in the fields, which I thought was odd bearing in mind that we Orcadians were sweltering in the high 20s Celsius. The boy at the farm explained that his family, and all the neighbouring farms, employ hundreds of folk from Mexico for fruit and veg harvesting. They were all wrapped up in warm clothes because, although they head north for work away from the searing summer heat in their native country, they find the summer temperatures in Quebec pretty cool.

They were working mainly in the blueberries and tatties while we were there, and it did seem to be blueberry season. Very sweet and widely available – plenty of the farms had stood at the roadside and back in the city they were a common component of smoothies, pancakes, and muffins. At this time of year, you can pick up three punnets for 5 dollars (£3) instead of the usual £3 a punnet.

Canada has nearly a thousand potato farms producing not far short of 6 million tonnes of tatties a year. Quebec is the fifth biggest producer of the ten provinces that make up the country, providing around 12% of the national output. Their main varieties are Goldrush, Chieftain Mystere - and Envol, principally known for being a big, floury early. Luckily I didn’t come across many of them, being much more of a waxy tattie man. Maybe it’s an islander thing.