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 have been farming 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. Besides that, back 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 tell René, “you know that I all ready have a full-time job” as he puts in long evenings on the farm.

As the generational shift takes place René is more and more 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 and takes care of the vast majority of paperwork and financial records. 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, along with Christina, all of whom are involved in the farming business at this time.

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

mathew and christinaMathew and Christina Gelder were married at the end of the 2009 market season. They now make their home about ten minutes away from the farm but are there often to help out and enjoy time with Mat’s family.

Mathew’s fulltime employment is actually at the farm equipment store owned by his father and uncle but he spends a lot of time at Ellis Family Farms as well. Growing up on the farm was a blessing to Mathew and has given him a love for the industry. After going to markets with his grandparents for years in Chicago he was given his own market to manage. Mathew will manage the Naperville market on Saturdays this year. Mathew also enjoys working on the farm’s tractors and other equipment.  He is always eager to research new varieties with his Mom.

Christina has a background in the retail side of farming. She has worked at Chicago markets, and a Michigan based farm market and u-pic for years. Though she now works full-time at a local credit union,  Christina is also a professional photographer and journalist. She does freelance work for a local paper and enjoys taking family portraits. One of her favorite places to document moments is on the farm.

marc gelderMarc Gelder is the second son of Bruce and René. He is in his early twenties and lives on the farm with his parents. Marc is preparing to add to the farm in the future as he dedicates more time to raising fruit.

Marc currently freelances at mechanics and farm work. He still helps us on the farm and occasionally at markets.  During the fall of 2010 he used his carpentry talents in renovating the “eggery” and in 2011 he helped build a new hen house.

Mphoto(4)ary Gelder is the youngest child of Bruce and René. As a teenager she is currently enrolled in a local high school and is dedicated to keeping her grades up (Honor Roll).  Mary is also involved in soccer, cross-country, track and wood shop.

On the farm, Mary is the owner of several chickens, geese and ducks. She operates Mary’s Eggs and her eggs are sold in Chicago at several of our markets. Mary takes care of her poultry, gathers eggs and works to clean and package them. Her chickens and eggs have been the recipients of many awards at the Berrien County Youth Fair over the last couple of years. Her eggs won Grand Champion in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Mary attends several markets with René, especially at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday. This year Mary will be managing the Division St. market on Saturdays. She is a very valuable asset, besides taking care of many household chores such as cleaning, cooking and laundry, she helps with preparing for markets and packing fruit.

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. Now he is an invaluable help for several tasks and projects.

Cliff has been a staple at markets and is the driving force behind the farm website. He has the skills to implement the vision portrayed to him. He is called upon often to help with an amazing amount of projects, and you’ll see him at Oak Park market on Saturdays this year. We all appreciate his help and loyalty.

Jonathan Sanchez is also “part of our family”.  He greatly helps out on the farm and on markets.  He works on the farm with Rene doing whatever is necessary to keep business running smoothly.  All pre-market operations go through Jonathan.   You will see him at Green City Market on Saturdays and Skokie market on Sunday.  Jonathan will also be helping out at Museum of Contemporary Art this summer.

Debbie Dorfman has worked with Ellis Family debbieFarms for the past five 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 women at Green City Market on Saturday when Rene is away. You will also see her at Skokie market on Sundays.


ALAl Mikell has been a mainstay with Chicago Markets for the past 20 years. For the past six 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. Since founding the Market in 2008, Experimental Station has worked to increase access to and affordability of fresh and healthy food for all residents in Chicago’s Woodlawn, Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

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. Yes, 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! Within seconds of that encounter Digit is already loving you. Digit is the proud owner of a puppy cat named Izzy.

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