"These are all heirloom tomatoes," says Waddell. "They come from seeds that have been passed down from one generation to the next and go back hundreds of years.
"People decades ago would plant a variety of tomatoes and then save seeds produced by some of the tomatoes and plant them the next year, and so it went on, one year to the next, one generation to the next," he says. "You can trace the ancestry of this old German tomato back to Germany and this pink Belgium back to Belgium."
Waddell also grows and sells cucumbers, peppers, beans, mushmelons, squash, blackberries, raspberries and ornamental pumpkins. He grows garlic but doesn't cultivate a big crop of breath mint to sell with it.
Waddell has been growing produce for only the last few years, although he has farming deep in his bloodstream. He grew up on a 100-acre farm off Cream Ridge Road on Burger Knob. He and his siblings worked on the farm, and Waddell had his fill of farm work by the time he graduated from Boyle County High School in 1970.
Didn't want to farm
"I didn't really know what I was going to do. I just knew it wasn't going to be farming," he says.
He joined the Navy rather than be drafted. Serving in any branch of the service was risky business at the height of the Vietnam War, but Waddell ended up as a technician working on fighter jets.
"I never went to Vietnam, but I did see a lot of the States," he says, noting he was stationed at bases and installations in California, New Orleans, Virginia and Boston, to name a just a few of the stops in his lengthy career.
Waddell, who had risen to the rank of chief petty officer, retired from the Navy in 1997, and he and his wife, Alice, decided to make his native county their retirement home.
"It was kind of a culture shock for Alice, who was from California, but she really loves it here," he says.
Alice Waddell may not have shared her husband's upbringing, but they did have careers in common. She also was in the Navy. And their common careers inspired the name they gave the 1898 farm house on a two-acre tract they bought on Ky. 300 near Parksville - Mariners' Rest Farm.
But rest is hardly the word to describe the retirement life of a man who joined a sea-loving branch of the service and has returned to the farmland of his youth. On a three-fourths acre plot, he is growing the great-great-great-great-granddaughters and sons of ancient tomatoes plus a cornucopia of other produce. He's gone from fixing fighter jets to growing jumbo tomatoes.
Small is good
"We've even named my truck garden business - Mariners' Rest Produce," says Waddell, sporting a T-shirt with the logo. "Of course, the business consists of less than an acre of land, a little building on the farm and a pickup truck."
But small is good, according to Waddell. After all, he never wanted to operate a big farm like his dad did.
"I enjoy growing the produce more than I do selling it, and that's good because I don't sell enough to make much money," Waddell says with a laugh. "It's a hobby, not a career."
But it's a hobby that gives him a sense of accomplishment just the same.
"I don't grow an abundance of produce, but I take pride in what I do grow," he says. "Let me grow just a few heirloom tomatoes and I'm happy."