Get to Know Your Farmer

Peach Blossoms, Portrait

Bruce and René surrounded by peach blossoms

Bruce and René Gelder have been married since the early 1980s. René is the second daughter of Jerry and Anita Ellis and grew up on Ellis Farms. She and Bruce moved into her Grandmother’s old house a few years after they were wed and farmed the land with her parents for several years. They are the owners of Bruné Farms which is part of the overall Ellis Family Farms picture.

Bruce is part owner of a farm equipment dealership and store not far from the farm. He is the fourth generation of Gelders to operate the business which he owns with his brother. In 2010 Louis Gelder & Sons Co. was proud to be celebrating 100 years and 5 generations of business. At home, Bruce does much of the tractor work and has a hand in figuring out fieldwork and farm improvements. You can often hear him lovingly telling René, “You know I all ready have a full-time job!” as he puts in long evenings on the farm.

René is very involved in the overall management of the farm. She has taken over the Chicago markets and the two suburban locations, managing all of the employees and operations. She spearheads many, many projects for the farm. These efforts have resulted in the farm being verified by MAEAP, and also receiving a special tribute by the State of Michigan for environmental stewardship.

Bruce and René have three children and two daughters-in-law, all of whom are involved with helping Ellis Family Farms in some way.

A note from René: “I am so proud of our children.  You cannot imagine how hard they all work at their employment or school and on the farm.  We – and I hope you as well – are blessed with their love.”

mathew and christinaMathew and Christina Gelder were married in 2009. They make their home about ten minutes away from the farm.

Mathew works at the farm equipment store owned by his father and uncle. Growing up on the farm was a blessing to Mathew and has given him a love for the industry. Mathew also enjoys working on the farm’s tractors and other equipment. Mathew manages the Naperville market on Saturdays, and is often stopping by the farm to visit and lend a helping hand.

Christina worked at Chicago markets and a Michigan based farm market for years. She now works at a local credit union. When she isn’t working, she is spending time with their dog, Ben, and working on their farm.

Marc and Laura Gelder were married in 2015 and they live about twenty minutes away from the farm.Marc currently works for the City of St. Joseph, and freelances doing mechanics and farm work. He still helps us on the farm occasionally and stops by often to visit and help with various farm tasks.

Laura works as the tasting room manager at Dablon Vineyards. When Laura is not planning Dablon’s events or helping in the tasting room, she is at the beach, running, or spending time with Marc and their dog Cooper.

You can visit Marc and Laura at the St. Joseph Farmer’s Market in Michigan on Saturday mornings.

Mary Gelder is the youngest child of Bruce and René. She just finished her first year at university studying business.

Mary owns and cares for all the chickens, geese and ducks on the farm. She operates Mary’s Eggs and her eggs are sold in Chicago at several of our markets. Her eggs won Grand Champion at our local youth fair in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Besides taking care of many household chores such as cleaning, cooking and laundry, she helps with preparing for markets and packing fruit.

Mary attends several markets with René. She is loved by everyone and so much fun to be around. Mary will be managing the Division Street market year along with Brian.

Cliff Simpson is like family without sharing our genetics. He has a several year history on the farm as both Mathew and Marc’s best friend from high school.

Cliff has been a staple at markets and created the farm website for us. He is called upon often to help with quite a few projects, and you’ll see him at Oak Park market on Saturdays this year.


1522791_966363320046487_1296725519561044999_oAlexandra Smith (Ally for short) is one of Mary’s friends from high school. She assists Rene at Green City markets on Saturdays during the summer and attends Grand Valley during the school year. She is very bubbly and outgoing and fits in perfectly with our market team. She also babysits and plays soccer very proficiently.

You can find her at Green City market on Saturdays.


Erik Thorson helps out at the farm in the summer. He just completed his third year in college. He is studying music. He works as a freelance musician, playing and singing for weddings and large events around the Southwest Michigan area.

He works both on the farm and at markets. He and Stephen pack up all the wholesale for restaurants on Fridays and you can often hear Erik singing loudly and enthusiastically (he is an incredibly talented singer) and making very corny jokes. You will see him – likely making someone laugh – at Green City Market on Saturdays.

Debbie Dorfman has worked with Ellis Family debbieFarms for the past six years. Debbie and Rene first met at Lincoln Park High School Farmer’s Market. Later on, as a customer at Green City market one busy Saturday, Debbie graciously jumped behind the counter to help our market team. Ever since, Debbie has been the go-to woman at Green City Market on Saturday when Rene is away.

She is patient and kind, and all of our employees and customers enjoy working with her. Besides working at Green City, she also can be found at Skokie on Sundays.

stephenStephen Rumley works for Rene doing wholesale and making sure the trucks are all ready to drive in to Chicago on Saturdays. He also helps Erik packing up wholesale on Mondays and Fridays. The two of them are always laughing about something while weighing fruit and vegetables and packing up the lugs. You will see Stephen at Green City Market on Saturdays.


1401747_318432718305178_7094538108729940262_oBeth Rumley has worked for Rene for almost two years. She is a college student. She works in the office for Rene during the week, sorting through paperwork, emailing customers, writing blog posts, and recording everything. This year you can find her working at Green City’s second location.



ALAl Mikell has been a mainstay with Chicago Markets for the past 20 years. For the past seven years, Al has been part of our farm family. You will always know you are welcome at market because of Al and his charismatic personality. Al manages our farm stand at 61st Street Farmers Market every Saturday. The 61st Street Farmers Market takes place rain or shine—from mid-May through mid-December, from 9am-2pm.



photo(5)Digit is our family dog. He was a lost and found dog and we couldn’t be happier that we found him. Since his early puppy days he has never left the side of a family member. He used to chase the chickens but now he loves them. He is the protector of every inch of our farm and when you knock at our door he will be the first to greet you!

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