Enough about Ray
If you’re a Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket regular, chances are you’ve run into Loaiza “Loa” Ortiz at Ray’s farm stand, likely with her impish three-year-old daughter, Viola. Loa and her husband moved to Brooklyn from Oakland, California in 2001 and, in the summer of 2007 and 2008, worked for Ray at the market. She’s been a member of the Bradley Farm family ever since. Viola even calls Ray “Grandpa.”
How did you wind up working for Ray?
I met Ray and Hardeep around 2005 when I started going to the market and I would hang out — Hardeep talks to everyone! — and one day, Ray says “You’re a teacher [Loa teaches middle school at The Mary McDowell School] and off for the summers, so come work for me.”
What was it like?
Oh my gosh, it was so much fun, putting up with all of Ray’s antics. There was a lot of teasing and joking — Ray says the most inappropriate things no one else could get away with.
Let’s hear the best and worst parts about working at the market
It was so social and awesome being part of the whole market community. That was the best part.
The worst part is that you can’t go [to the loo] until 10am when the bathroom opens!
What’s the difference between market culture in Brooklyn and California, where you’re from?
The most exciting thing about east coast markets is that, since there are such distinct seasons, you really anticipate the arrival of your favorites. On the west coast you can have good tomatoes all year. Here, you’re so excited for August–the anticipation makes everything taste better.
Viola, here’s a question for you: What’s your favorite thing about “Grandpa” Ray?
[The toddler's eyes narrow as she squeezes up her face into a mischievous grin, pulls in a breath and -- we know who she takes after here -- shouts...]
What’s your Ray connection?
I must have met Ray at the Grand Army Plaza market in 1998 or 99. In July 2001 I asked him if I could come up to take some pictures at the end of the garlic harvest. A hot day ended with my camera and I covered with a fine brown dust after a good harvest of images of the last garlic being pulled out and of many heads already drying.
My favorite picture is one that Ray is still using on his farm stand, where a couple of chickens are roaming under a multitude of drying garlic heads. Since then I still enjoy taking pictures of his produce on market days or around his farm to better promote the variety of his work.
What’s your favorite Ray product and why?
Ray’s vegetables taste like those that came out of my aunt’s garden and that I would enjoy during my vacations at her house in the French countryside.
It’s that “right from the ground to the table” bright and complex flavors that make you rediscover the most simple dishes and contribute to the best ones. But out of all of them, his heirloom tomatoes are my favorites. There is just nothing like it. Raw or cooked depending on the variety, they are a delight for the eye and the taste buds.
Okay, now really, enough about Ray. Tell us some fun facts, something about you. Anything about yourself you would like to share with other customers/fans of Bradley Farm.
My niece is a children’s book illustrator in France and she had the idea to combine her detailed and colorful illustrations with my New York City images to tell the story of a young sparrow called Emma. The result is a beautiful book in English called “Emma’s Journey” that just got published here by Enchanted Lion Books. Go to enchantedlionbooks.com to learn more about it or newyorkkids.timeout.com for a review