Dave and Arden Delidais are the owners and operators of DNA Gardens located in Red Deer County near Elnora, Alberta. When they were married in 1975 Arden’s passion for gardening prompted her to plant the fruit orchards, still producing on their farm today.
This determined duo has grown their business into a rather extraordinary rural Alberta experience. Not only are they a fruit-producing 15-acre orchard of 12+ different types of fruit, but they also boast 19 different varieties of Saskatoons, the oldest commercial growers of saskatoons in the world! They also offer wine tours, dining events, and homemade goodies that fill their Farm Store and Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market locations.
Read on to discover the fun experiences and flavours that can be found at this Tourism Red Deer member’s central Alberta orchard.
What makes you different, unique or stand out?
“We do lots of different things,” says Arden Delidais owner/operator of DNA Gardens. “We take the fruit we produce full-circle. We believe it’s the natural evolution of an orchard to gravitate toward wine and spirit production.”
Though the growing season is short in Canada, DNA Gardens make the most of this time and produce everything from apples, black currants, cherries, chokecherries, honeyberries, pears, plums, raspberries, saskatoons and strawberries.
“It’s a fun way to reacquaint yourself with your prairie roots,” says Delidais. “Families really enjoy the timeless tradition of harvesting their own fruit (U-Pik) and teaching their kids where their food comes from.”
Interested in growing your own fruit at home? DNA Gardens is also an Artisan Fruit Tree Nursery, where you can purchase varieties to grow at home. You will often find unique plants that are odd and unusual at their nursery as they also do their own plant grafting.
Gelato and Sorbetto on the prairies? You bet! “We hand make all of our gelato and sorbetto with farm fresh fruit and juices,” says Delidais. These high-end, Italian ice creams (gelato), and dairy-free sorbetto are made onsite for you to enjoy out on their breezy patio or take home for a cool treat on a warm summer night.
Why do you do what you do?
“We really like it!” exclaims Delidais. “We enjoy the work, the fruit and the challenges that come along the way, it keeps things interesting.” Arden also mentions how much they enjoy their hosting roles, allowing them to visit and interact with their guests. “Dave really enjoys the food side of things too (she adds) and we enjoy spending time with our kids and grandkids when they come to help and visit.”
After graduating from high school in Elnora, Arden continued onto Olds College to study Horticulture. Her passion for gardening and plants were a perfect match for hardworking soon-to-be husband Dave and the Delidais homestead that would become their life’s work.
When Arden and Dave took the big leap toward expanding their operations into wine and spirits production, they thought it was very important to pay tribute to the homestead and those who worked it before them. “Our wine and spirits labels help to tell our story, Dave’s dad was a bootlegger and with that comes some interesting stories,” says Delidais. “Our wines are bold and full of character, like the pioneers that came west!”
The addition of Our Roots – Delidais Estate Winery, has layered in cheeky titled wines and spirits like Back Breaker, Contraband, Sodbuster, Cavalry and Sassy Black to the DNA Gardens lineup of products. “Our wines are easy drinking and make incredible gifts,” says Delidais. Stop by their Farm Store to put together a gift basket or check out their new location at the year-round Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market. Throw in a bottle (or two) for yourself and a variety of preserves like their Cherry Jalapeno Jam, top off with a bow and voila!
What can guests (local or visiting) expect to experience?
“We hope to deliver a relaxing feel-good experience,” says Delidais. “We are not a box store, we offer fresh local options, and we have lots of wide-open spaces for people to enjoy.”
In addition to their orchard offerings, guests can enjoy numerous self-guided tours throughout the property: the Nature Trek, Bat Walk, and Antique Trail. Guests will find interactive maps, 6 different stations and observation bee and bat boxes. If you have some time to watch nature hard-at-work, you can witness the Mason Bees mine for mud as they zip back and forth on their busy mission. “The area is also quite the naturalist vein for birding,” says Delidais, “people come from all over to enjoy the variety of birds here.”
Wine Tasting Tours have been a popular experience at DNA Gardens. “We go for a gentle walk of the orchard and talk about the fruit, crush it, smell it and see if people can identify the plants,” says Delidais. “I offer a little history as we wander the area and make our way to tables set for sampling the wines.”
“Truly, we live in a beautiful part of the world,” says Delidais, “there are so many great day trip possibilities nearby.” Being located so close to the Red Deer River, visitors can explore natural attractions, like Dry Island Buffalo Jump, Trenville Park and McKenzie Crossing, where they can witness world-renowned Canadian Badland landscapes.
What is new or upcoming?
“We are proud to introduce our Red Seal Chef, Lynsey Armstrong, who has been cooking up a storm to create out-of-this-world menu items,” says Delidais. Every Friday night from July 9th until September 24th, DNA Gardens will be offering their Bootlegger Brisket Dinner, enjoy slow-cooked, smoked to perfection Alberta Beef brisket, roasted vegetables and fresh bread. Delidais Estate Wines will be ready to pour as well as local craft beers.
“We will end the evening enjoying fresh perked campfire coffee and our decadent fruit pies around a cozy campfire,” says Delidais. “We aim to offer some light entertainment, it’s likely that a Bootlegger and Constable just might join us.” Reservations are required.
The welcoming team of DNA Gardens invites you to come and experience their orchard firsthand, the scenery is beautiful and the offerings delicious. If you can’t make it out to the orchard, be sure to stop by their booth at the year-round Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market and stock up on local farm-fresh food and drink.
As with any activity it is best to connect directly with the operators for full details on product and service offerings, as pandemic restrictions continue to vary.
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