Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, July 01, 1995, Image 48

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    BlMjnwHr fanrtnfl, Saturday, July 1, 1985
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* Country ' In The Boy Propates Gardening
Cambria Co. Correspondent
Co.) —“You can take the boy out
of the country but you can’t take
the country out of the boy.”
This statement is quite appro
priate when speaking of John
Drahnak of R.D. Ebensburg,
Cambria County.
Drahnak was bom and raised on
a farm north of Barnes boro and his
upbringing has shaped his values
concerning his respect for nature.
He credits his father and grand
father for creating the interest and
providing the inspiration for gar
dening, which he enjoys so much.
Drahnak is listed as a “Master
Gardener” of Cambria County.
The Master Gardener program is a
volunteer program sponsored by
the Penn State cooperative exten
sion. Master Gardeners undergo
training in plant science, inte
grated pest management, pesticide
safety, plant propagation, soil sci
ence, plant diseases, and insect
pests. Drahnak feels that by being
involved in this program he is
“giving back” to his community.
As a Master Gardener, Drahnak
answers questions on crops,
lawns, houseplants, and gardens.
If requested, he will visit a garden
or a landscaping site to offer his
advice. He has been a featured
speaker at local Garden Clubs,
Scout groups, and 4-H groups.
Last year he was a moderator at
the National Conference for Mas
ter Gardeners. This conference,
held in Lancaster, was attended by
500 people from across the
In one unique situation he has
worked with the Cambria County
Probation Office. In this case
Drahnak had the delinquents from
the County Juvenile Detention
Home plant flowers around the
Cambria County Courthouse and
Laurel Crest Manor, the county
home for the aged.
After working in area coal
mines for 33 years, Drahnak took
the position as “Building and
Grounds Supervisor” for the
Northern Cambria School District
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Drahnak, explains how to remove plants from their styrofoam cups. The students
seem to be amazed at the "root system.” Drahnak then Invites the students to plant
their flowers and “come back when you go to first grade to see how much it has
in Bamesboro. He is very com
fortable in this supervisory posi
tion and is able to put his garden
ing expertise to good use. Drahnak
is a certified pesticide applicator
who must periodically recertify.
The children who attend Northern
Cambria are his prime concern,
and he is very conscientious about
the buildings and grounds which
he maintains. Drahnak is quick to
point out that no spraying is done
at any of the schools until the
children have vacated the pre
mises for the summer. The most
current methods of cleaning are
used inside the buildings with a
constant awareness of hypersensi
tivity. His pesticide certification
also allows him to properly care
for the district swimming pool.
Hie students at Northern Cam
bria Elementary/Middle School
have benefitted greatly from
Drahnak’s current project. A few
weeks ago he went into each class
room from kindergarten through
grade S. A total of more than 500
students was involved. Each stu
dent received a styrofoam cup
filled with a growing medium.
After a short lesson on seeds and
germination, adjusted appropri
ately for the different age groups,
each student planted two marigold
The cups were left in the indivi
dual classrooms so that the stu
dents could water them and watch
their progress. Any student who
had seeds which did not germinate
were to see Drahnak so that they
could replant in order to be
involved in the next phase of the
This next step came on a nice
sunny day last week. Drahnak
resembled the “Pied Piper” lead
ing one class after another outside
to plant the flowers around the
school. On the way out, he
received puzzled looks from some
of the younger children when he
asked to see their “green thumbs.”
The kindergarten classes did the
landscaping around the flagpole.
These young children were
excited to take the marigolds out
of the styrofoam cups, dig a hole
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with their hands, and plant the
flowers. The root systems of then
plants seemed to fascinate them.
Only a few children didn’t want to
get their hands dirty, but with a
little gentle coaxing from Drah
nak, they planted and even seemed
to enjoy it When all of the flowers
were planted, Drahnak invited the
children to come back and see the
progress their flowers make over
the summer.
Besides beautifying the school
grounds at very minimal cost
(more than 1,000 flowers had been
planted by the students), John
feels that the students get a lot of
satisfaction from this project.
Many of these children never had
a garden and there is a lot of
excitement in starting something
from seed and watching it grow.
John likes to pass this enjoyment
down to those who are not as for
tunate as he was growing up on a
This easy-going many really
seems to have a “flair” for work-
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John Drahnak resembles the “Pled Piper” with all of this
following him.
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part Is “digging.”
ing with children. While they were
outdoors planting, never once did
he tell a child to plant in a particu
lar spot. When questioned about
this he replied that he likes to see
the children plant as they see
things in nature, not merely set the
plants up like soldiers. He feels
that this planting will give them
pride in their school and their sur
roundings. Vandalism has not
been a problem in the past and
Drahnak attributes this to the fact
that the students have done some
of the work.
At home, Drahnak and his wife
Lois, tend to a 9,000 square foot
garden in which they grow all of
the usual assortment of veget
ables, which Lois will then can
and freeze. The Drahnaks do not
purchase any plants for the garden
but start everything from seed in
the greenhouse which they have
built onto their home.
The Drahanks are the parents of
six children; John, Theresa, Paul,
Richard, Kevin, and Mark. Kevin
shares his father’s passion for gar
dening and this has helped pave
the way for a career in horticul
ture. He is currently pursuing a
master’s degree in horticulture at
Penn State and hopes to obtain
employment with a large nursery.
There are also three grandchil-
idergarten class
dren, Emily, Morgan, and Richard
and a fourth “on the way.” Two
year-old Richard loves to garden
and dig with his “novel.” He is not
the least bit afraid to dirty his
hands and he especially likes to
help grandpap water his plants.
In his “spare” time, John enjoys
hunting, fishing, bowling, and fur
niture building. He builds gun
cases, waterfoeds, curio cabinets,
and “things unusual.” This
includes items which are difficult
to find such as the “left-handed”
desk which he built this past wint
er. Most of his spare time at home
though is spent in the garden or his
In his home greenhouse, Drah
nak has some things which are
considered “exotic.” He has a cac
tus, two banana trees, a grapefruit
tree, and orchids. He also has
many gardening “gadgets.”
Drahnak really enjoys being a
part of the Master Gardener prog
ram and is proud that he has
helped to build interest in it. He
has definitely touched the lives of
many young people and for him
the reward seems to come in the
wide-eyed fascination evident on
the faces of the children.
For more information on Penn
State Master Gardening, contact
your local extension office.