Josh and Nicole Gaatz live in Wautoma, a community in which they dearly treasure. Josh grew up with a farming background, working on a farm during his younger years. From there he went on to graduate with a degree in Engineering from UW-Stout. Josh went on to move to Chicago, but ultimately moved back to Waushara County.
From there Josh then started working for Bonnie Plants 15 years ago when they built the growing station in Wautoma. Gaatz was hired for sales serving the Northern Wisconsin Area. His job had him traveling up north to various retailers. Bonnie Plants has grown since that time, with Josh growing with the company.
Josh was able to work his way from the bottom to the top. After his extensive time in sales Josh became the first Trainee Station Manager for Bonnie Plants. He spent one year training in Pennsylvania learning to grow the vegetable and herb plants company provides. From there Josh hoped to work in Wautoma. His hopes eventually became a reality.
For the past eight years, Josh and Nicole Gaatz have managed Bonnie Plants Station 63 located just west of Wautoma, which employs 50-60 seasonal employees. The duo work well as a team, with Josh speaking fondly of his wife. “What doesn’t she do?” Josh states, as Nicole handles all of the hiring, paperwork and helps to manage the day-to-day operations at the greenhouses, assists the sales team, and coordinates the store deliveries.
The growing season begins in March, with May and June, the peak months of operation. The plants grown here are delivered to hundreds of stores across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Upper Michigan. Those stores include Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowes, Tractor Supply, Fleet Farm, Meijer, and numerous independent stores. The plants are also sold locally at StoneRidge and Smiley’s Feed and Bait.
Mike Sutterer, Bonnie Plants President and CEO, announced the company would be teaming up with Ample Harvest earlier this year. Each station was strongly encouraged to plant a garden and donate the produce to a local food pantry. Shortly after that announcement was made COVID-19 engulfed the country. The pandemic shook the nation, but also brought interest to new gardeners.
Josh and Nicole have always made donating, volunteering, and giving back a priority in their lives. Josh remembers his time growing up on the farm and the importance of giving back. When the pandemic hit and they found their nearest drop off location on the AmpleHarvest.org website to be in Winnebago County. The couple made the trips to Ample Harvest, but were searching for a way to give back to their local community.
The Gaatz’s decided to reach out to the Waushara County Food Pantry to get them involved with AmpleHarvest.org. Marty Lee was happy to sign up, stating that the amount of families that they serve has more than doubled during the pandemic.
Since then, the couple has donated approximately 400 lbs. of produce in July/August of 2020. “It is important to give back to the community,” Nicole stated.
Josh and Nicole encouraged their employees to donate as well. The couple finds gratitude in being able to make a difference locally. The team is now looking forward to expanding next year to continue making a difference locally.