Route 30, Clinton
724-899-3438 or www.janoskis.com
Drive far enough out into the suburbs -- in almost any direction -- and you'll likely find a place like Janoski's, perched almost literally where the sidewalk ends. These are working farms, but they stay in business -- and on top of rising property values -- by supplementing their income with gift shops as large as the back 40. Janoski's itself is in the airport area, along a stretch of Route 30 that seems to draw you up closer to the sky.
A farming acquaintance of mine calls these attractions "agritainment" -- a hardy hybrid that combines the genetic traits of a shopping center with all the rural character the nearby subdevelopments are busily destroying. But look past Janoski's for-illustrative-purposes-only windmill, and you can't miss that there's more here than country kitsch.
Janoski's is that increasingly rare breed: a family-owned farm. Originally located in Mount Lebanon, the Janoski clan pulled up roots and relocated to Clinton nearly 50 years ago. But the 200-acre spread is still run by Sonny and JoAnn Janoski.
And there's plenty here for the serious -- even militant -- gardener. On a recent visit, dozens of that genus were perusing the endless tables of plants in flats and baskets. I counted 15 species of tomato alone, as well as exotics like citrosa -- a flowering plant supposedly useful in warding off mosquitoes. (Buyer beware: Researchers are agnostic, at best, about the claim.)
Janoski's also offers a range of seminars for aspiring gardeners. This month, for example, there's been a primer on organic growing techniques, a meet-the-author session with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gardening expert Doug Oster, and instruction on how to raise vegetables (supplemented with a tour of the Janoski plots themselves). Signs tacked to the wall, meanwhile, remind less-experienced gardeners that temperatures can drop below freezing as late as May 10. (How many Home Depot customers, lured into complacency by an unseasonable April, could have used such a reminder?)
As for the gift shop, if you're like me there are only so many stuffed bears and scented candles you can take. But you'll also find locally made honey and other choice items. And whatever else you can find there, Janoski's offers a distinctive experience -- the kind of local flavor you drive miles out of your way for.