A lot of you will remember us, or recognize our name which was the home of Wardell’s Haunted Hayride for nine years. Together with my friends Brian and Karen Taylor we did the hayride during the month of October as a fundraiser for different organizations. Proceeds went to the Lucas County Children Services, Bittersweet Farms to support the Autistic Community, and then to Life Connection of Ohio, to help educate people about the need for organ transplant donations. It was a lot of fun, but it just got too big and we decided to close it down after a very successful 9 years.
My life in farming started as soon as I could walk to my Grandparents farm. Every chance I got, I would spend it riding on a tractor next to Grandpa and Grandma. By age 7 I was driving a tractor by myself, and so every chance I had I would head to the farm. As my senior year approached, there wasn’t a place for me on the farm, so I pursued my second love which was music. After graduating from BGSU in Music Education, I became a band director. I had a fantastic experience at Patrick Henry, but lost my job in 1982 due to the financial cut backs from the state of Ohio. I was the only band director, but the last one hired in the music department, so the first one out. At that point my Grandparents decided to get out of the farming, and offered me the chance to come back and take over the farm.
I was so excited to be back farming, doing what I had always loved. It didn’t take long to learn that the future in grain farming here was almost a thing of the past. The land around here was more valuable for development, than farming. I started specializing into vegetables and selling them off a picnic table or the back of my pick-up. In 1987 I put up my first greenhouse to raise vegetable plants for the field. Since there was plenty of room above the plants, we tried raising about 100 hanging baskets. We put them out along the road with a sign and a coffee can for the money. They all sold and away we go. With a start of 480 square feet of greenhouse, I started increasing a little almost every year until today I have over 25,000 square feet in greenhouse area.
During the 1980’s I also started something new. I got married and was blessed with two wonderful daughters, Lisa and Melissa. They spent many hours in the greenhouse playing, sleeping, eating, and trying to help. I remember them on my back in a back pack as I was transplanting flowers and working around the greenhouse. Even though my girls aren’t currently involved in the operation, they are only a memory away.
After growing the flowers, the problem came as to how to sell them. I moved from the road and a coffee can, to a picnic table, then to wagons. That worked okay except putting away the wagons when a storm was approaching. It looked like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz with flats of flowers flying through the air. Enough of that! I put up my first market which was just an expanded 2 car garage kit, along with 2 greenhouses for retail. As the lawn and garden industry continued to grow, it became clear for me to stay at the top of our industry I needed to grow also. In 2002 I designed and had the present garden center built. The old market was taken down the last Sunday in January, and by April 1st we were ready to open in the new building. One problem solved, and the start of another. The challenge was with the extra space, with all of the new products to hit the market each year, what will my customers want and buy? It was then, and continues today with all the shows I attend to find new products. My goal is to always be bringing in new and exciting products throughout the year.
In 2007 the newest addition to my farm was added. In July I went to West Virginia and picked up three miniature horses. Moonbeam, Moondust, and Moonshadow have given a lot of smiles to our customers. They have become a real favorite to talk to and pet. Stop by and we’ll be glad to introduce them to you.
Today I still farm my farm of 60 acres, and the market has grown into a complete garden center. We operate almost year around with our four different themed seasons of spring, summer, fall, and our Christmas Shoppe. I hope that you will stop in and enjoy what I have done over the last 31 years. I would welcome the opportunity to meet you, and show you around. Our business depends on you, so at Wardell’s, you’re welcome, special, and very important to us.