Second Shift

Kathleen Harple says volunteering at Greensgrow gives her a break from the “craziness of life.” | Photo by Stephen Dyer

North Philadelphia nurse heals herself in the nursery

Three years ago, Kathleen Harple and her dog, Fenway, went for a walk around Kensington and discovered the bustling Greensgrow Farms. At first, she was just a customer, but she soon saw the farm as “an anchor in the neighborhood” and wanted to a volunteer. A full-time nurse, Harple, credits volunteering at Greensgrow as a break from the “hustle of the city and the craziness of life.”

“My blood pressure goes down 10 points when I walk through the gate,” she says. “The people at the farm are some of the best people with whom I’ve worked in my life. I learn from them, laugh with them, and I’ve even cried with them.”

Greensgrow relies on volunteers to help with various tasks such as harvesting, weeding, setting up produce for the CSA and Farmstand, and assisting customers by answering questions.

“Kathleen is a great cook, and loves to share her personal tips [about cleaning and preparing produce],” says Lindsay Chirico, Nursery Assistant at Greensgrow.

Her willingness to help sometimes extends beyond advice. “One day this summer, I was cashiering and she was the next customer in line behind a gentleman I was helping,” Chirico says. “He was a few dollars short for his purchase, and rather than [having him put] an item back, [Harple] insisted on covering his bill. Her good deeds and grasp of the happiness in life [are] very inspiring.” 

Jimmy Matesevac, Greensgrow’s Fresh Food Manager, who has managed volunteers for several years, agrees.

“She can do anything on the farm and has gone up and down the loading ramp so much that we’ve renamed it the Kathleen Harple Celebratory Ramp,” he says. “We get to work with a lot of great volunteers here, so it takes a lot for someone to really stand out the way Kathleen does. What is most special about her is that she brings an incredible amount of love and positive energy to Greensgrow.