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. 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.

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, along with Christina and Laura, 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/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. They 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 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.

Christina has worked at Chicago markets, and a Michigan based farm market and u-pic 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 April 2015 and they live about twenty minutes away from the farm. Marc is preparing to add to the farm in the future as he dedicates more time to raising fruit.

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.

Marc currently works for the City of St. Joseph, and freelances doing mechanics and farm work. He still helps us on the farm occasionally.

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 graduated from high school and is planning on attending college in the fall on a soccer scholarship.

On the farm, Mary is the owner of all the 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. 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. This year you can find Mary managing the Division St. market on Saturdays.

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 is the driving force behind the farm website. 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.


10672332_885398371498606_6229903962596481064_nMary Sanchez works doing deliveries for Rene on Saturdays so that Rene can be present at the Green City Market. When she isn’t delivering for Rene or working markets, Mary is a medical assistant at a nearby health office.

Mary is one of Rene’s hardest workers, and she is always quick to smile and say good morning. When she isn’t working, she is spending quality time with her son.


Erik Thorson is one of Rene’s new workers. He is a college student and he will be heading back to university this fall. He helps out both on the farm and at markets. He and Stephen pack up all the wholesale for restaurants on Mondays and Fridays and you can often hear Erik singing very loudly (he is a very talented singer) and making very corny jokes. You will see him – likely making someone laugh – at Green City Market on Wednesdays and 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. You will also see her at Skokie market 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 at Green City Market on Saturdays. She attends a local community college during the school year. She just started working in the office for Rene on Mondays, sorting through paperwork, emailing customers, writing blog posts, and recording everything. She also works at a local library. You can find her at the Naperville market on Saturday, usually eating the produce…

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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