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...]