Who We Are | The Green Heart Project

Mission & History

The Green Heart Project is a community-based volunteer organization that integrates school farms as outdoor classrooms in an effort to teach students the virtues of hard work, respect and success, and to reiterate classroom curriculum while connecting students and volunteers to fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce.

The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 as a small school garden at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston with the intention of reconnecting their students with fresh, locally-grown produce. As a Title-1 public school in a labeled food desert, the majority of Mitchell Elementary students come from low-income households that lack access to the whole, fresh fruits and vegetables that we all need to lead a healthy lifestyle. With this knowledge, local neighborhood residents Karalee Nielsen and Chauncey Jordan founded the Project with the hopes of changing those facts. Together with a group of friends, and an open-minded principal looking for alternative ways to teach and inspire, they devised a plan to build an urban garden with a group of 3rd grade students, utilizing the experience as a service-learning project to teach students the value of growing your own food.

In the first year, the Project quickly became more than an experiment in urban gardening. With students and volunteers working in the garden together, a mentorship was fostered. It was soon realized that the students were growing personally and socially, just as the vegetables were growing big in the garden. The urban farm became an organic example of an important life lesson -- through hard work, teamwork and respect for the process, you can literally bear the fruits of your labor. The volunteers became “Green Heart Buddies” – mentors students could count on and learn with as they worked together in the garden. And it is from this model in volunteer-assisted service-learning that the Green Heart Project's mission and educational program was founded.

Garden Locations

Mitchell Elementary School

2 Perry Street, Charleston, SC 29403

The Mitchell Elementary School Micro-Farm was our pilot project, planted in 2009. It has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft² of garden space, and includes a 5,500 ft² fully irrigated vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard (including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries). Currently, every student at Mitchell receives Green Heart Project in-school programming, in addition to one after-school program. Their urban farm is also the site for our annual Harvest Dinner each year!

Sanders Clyde Creative Arts School

805 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

Planted in January of 2015, by a group of After School students and dedicated Green Heart Buddies, the Sanders-Clyde garden consists of twelve raised beds, a composting area, as well as a native species garden bed. While only in the seedling stage, this garden will continue to grow and flourish along with our students! Currently, the students of Sanders-Clyde have one Green Heart after-school program.

Sullivan’s Island Elementary School

2015 I'on Avenue, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

Through a partnership with SeamonWhiteside, the Green Heart Project designed and built Sullivan’s Island Elementary 5 raised ‘wicking’ beds in the summer of 2015.  It now serves the students of Sullivan’s Island Elementary with room to grow! Currently, there is a Green Heart program everyday of the week at SIES. We serve every grade through in-school programming, in addition to one after-school program and one “special interest unit” for 4th and 5th graders.

Meeting Street Academy @ GrowFood Carolina

990 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

In August of 2015, the Green Heart Project adopted GrowFood Carolina’s demonstration garden to facilitate a farm-to-school program for the students of neighboring, Meeting Street Academy.  It consists of 5 irrigated raised beds, herb garden, composting station some fruit trees a muscadine vine. Currently, MSA has a Green Heart after-school program every day of the week, serving Kindergarten, 1st Grade and one group of 2nd-5th Graders.

Meeting Street Elementary @ Brentwood

2685 Leeds Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405

Through a partnership with SeamonWhiteside, the Green Heart Project designed and built Meeting Street Elementary’s 5 raised wicking beds in the summer of 2015.  It now serves the students of Meeting Street Elementary with room to grow! Currently, MSE-B has two Green Heart after-school programs serving both lower elementary and upper elementary students.

Memminger Elementary School

20 Beaufain St, Charleston, SC 29401

Memminger School of Global Studies is our newest program site! As an International Baccalaureate school, the Green Heart Project programming was a perfect fit. Launched in Fall 2017 with the help of the Charitable Society of Charleston and the SC Ports Authority, we were able to complete a summer garden re-build. Currently we provide two after-school programs for upper elementary and lower elementary students, three in-school programs for the 1st graders at Memminger.

Green Heart Team

Jesse Blom
Executive Director

Jesse serves the Green Heart Project as its Executive Director, overseeing all facets of the organization. For more than a decade, Jesse has used urban agriculture as a tool for building community and for inspiring curiosity and learning in people of all ages. Prior to joining the Green Heart Project, he managed an educational urban farm project for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD and before then, led urban agriculture, education, and training projects for Sweet Water Foundation in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI. Jesse is honored to be serving the Charleston community and would love to hear from you. You can reach him directly at jesse@greenheartsc.org.

Drew Harrison
Development Director

Drew has been involved with the Green Heart Project since its inception in 2009. First as a volunteer, then as its first employee, then as its first Executive Director from 2012-2018. Now serving as Development Director, Drew is responsible for overseeing the organization’s growth in the Charleston community. You can reach him directly at: drew@greenheartsc.org

Amanda Howell
Program Director

Amanda’s passions for education, social justice and all-things-food are what brought her to The Green Heart Project. After spending two years as a classroom teacher with Teach For America in Oakland, CA, she relocated to the Carolinas to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Her focus was on school-based obesity prevention initiatives in underserved communities, including gardening- and cooking-enhanced nutrition education programs. Amanda is excited to be working at the intersection of food and education as a Program Director with Green Heart, and looks forward to getting out in the garden with our Green Heart Buddies! amanda@greenheartsc.org

Nathan Burnell
Garden Coordinator

As Garden Coordinator, Nate manages all of our school gardens. In addition, he handles the logistics between Green Heart and all of our passionate volunteers for work days and events. Before taking on this position, he was involved in building and managing the compost piles at each of our school gardens as part of his work with the non profit called Compost Rangers, which he started in early 2016. Nate has always had a love for the outdoors and cared for Mother Nature, which is why it’s his goal to encourage people to rethink what they throw out. nathan@greenheartsc.org

Erin Snow
After-School Program Manager: Meeting Street Academy

Erin has known about Green Heart and volunteered at events and fundraisers for years. Her time began with us volunteering in the gardens “after-hours.” When Green Heart came to Meeting Street Academy in 2015, where she teaches kindergarten, it was her first opportunity to see the program in full action with students. Now, she is leading it! “I was incredibly excited and grateful for my students last year to have the opportunity to be part of Green Heart. This year, I am excited to create greater cohesion for the students, bridging classroom, garden, and home experiences.“

Abby Deal
In-School Program Manager: Mitchell & Sullivan's Island

I am a current senior at the College of Charleston, majoring in public health with a minor in environmental studies and sustainability. I came to the Green Heart project as a public health intern, and am now a Program Manager at Mitchell and Sullivan’s Island Elementary Schools. I am inspired everyday by the work and impact that the Green Heart Project has made in the Charleston community, and more importantly, in the lives of local children.

Sloan Wightman
In-School Program Manager: Mitchell & Sullivan's Island

I began my journey with the Green Heart Project as a public health intern with the College of Charleston. I was drawn to this organization because of an interest in education, health and sustainability that the Green Heart Project embodies. I am grateful to now be working as a Program Manager for upper elementary programs; specifically at Mitchell and Sullivan’s Island Elementary Schools. I am especially passionate about our mission to build community and inspire younger generations to celebrate and cultivate healthy food, while providing new opportunities to grow both food and our minds.

Holly Bishop
Public Health Intern

As a College of Charleston Public Health senior, I was drawn to the Green Heart internship for a chance to work with a local nonprofit that helps elementary students grow into happy, healthy and helpful stewards of the future. With a huge heart for children, nutrition and the environment, I found Green Heart to be a perfect intersection of these areas and the Green Heart staff to be wonderful mentors to guide my own growth as a public health professional. Upon graduation in May, I hope to continue to work in the realm of community health with a focus in maternal and child health.

Carly Krysa
Public Health Intern

As a senior Public Health major and Psychology minor at the College of Charleston, I joined the Green Heart team as a Public Health intern this Spring. With a passion in holistic health, nutrition, children and the environment, I found that Green Heart was the perfect fit. I am extremely passionate about helping younger populations learn healthy habits early that can be practiced throughout their lifetime. I hope to use the skills I learn while interning to WWOOF in New Zealand or Hawaii. One of my favorite quotes is “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”- Hippocrates, which ties perfectly into the mentality of the Green Heart Project. I am extremely excited to kick off my last semester at CofC with this incredible non-profit organization.

Rachel Meek
Growing New Farmers Program Apprentice

My apprenticeship with The Green Heart Project began thanks to the Growing New Farmers Program with Lowcountry Local First and College of Charleston. Currently, I am helping maintain each school garden while learning invaluable skills both on and off the farm. The Green Heart Project’s mission to connect communities through educating and celebrating clean eating is an important and inspirational concept that I am proud to be a part of. As an apprentice, I look forward to learning and growing in the Green Heart garden!

Board of Directors

Weston Fennell – Pres.

Limehouse Produce

Nikki Seibert – VP

Wit Meets Grit

Dirk Bedford

Meeting Street Academy

Karalee Nielsen Fallert

Taco Boy

Meredith Ebenhoeh


Jill Braddock
Scott Sasser


Russ Seamon


Harriett Lee


Kelly Timmons

Granna’s Gourmet

Victoria Rae Moore

Charleston PR Girl

Rich Yessian

Blue Ion

Morneek Bellinger-Holloway

Mitchell Elementary School

Temitope Leyimu

Motley Rice Law Firm


Taco Boy

Green Heart Partner

Charleston’s ultimate taqueria & cantina style restaurant, Taco Boy serves casual Mexican food and drinks to the masses.  Locals and visitors alike enjoy tasty tacos, nachos, frozen screwdrivers, fun margaritas, tequila flights and much more at their downtown and Folly Beach locations.  As founders of the Green Heart Project and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program, Taco Boy is also known for its commitment to the community.


Green Heart Partner

SeamonWhiteside is a leader of environmentally conscious, low-impact advancements in engineering and site design. SW blends civil engineering and landscape architecture to create holistic and sustainable environments.

Community Sponsors

Limehouse Produce

Community Sponsor

TBonz Foundation

Community Sponsor

Scott E. Phillips Foundation of the Coastal Community Foundation

Community Sponsor

Revelry Brewing Co.

Community Sponsor


Community Sponsor

Granna’s Gourmet

Community Sponsor

Garden Sponsors

Garden Sponsor

GrowFood Carolina

Garden Sponsor

Pure Barre Charleston

Garden Sponsor

Columbia Sportswear Company


Garden Sponsor

Meeting Street Academy

Garden Sponsor

Morgan Herterich

Garden Sponsor

The Fitzgerald Family

Garden Sponsor

Lindsey & Wes Carter

Garden Sponsor

Terri Henning

Program Sponsors

Program Sponsor


Program Sponsor

Bakker Family Foundation

Program Sponsor

Meeting Street Academy


Program Sponsor

BlueKey Inc.

Program Sponsor

TBonz Foundation Inc.

Program Sponsor

Windwood Farm

Program Sponsor

Sertoma Club of Charleston

Program Sponsor

Sam Moore

Program Sponsor

Don & Susan Harrison

Program Sponsor

Le Creuset

Class Sponsor

In the News

Organic Process Productions
“The Green Heart Project”
College of Charleston
“Public Health Program and Farm-to-School Initiative”
Casey Toth of the Post & Courier
“The Green Heart Project Summer Camp”
James Brown: Treehouse Productions
“Help Us Grow: The Green Heart Project”
“Green Heart Harvest Dinner”
Charleston Magazine
December 8, 2011
“Student gardens grow life lessons”
Post & Courier
February 15, 2012
“Featured Gardens: Common Ground”
Charleston Magazine
April 4, 2012
“Drew Harrison”
Charleston Parliament
June 20, 2012
“Green thumbs, and hearts ”
Post & Courier
June 28, 2012
“Bridging the farm-to-school GAP ”
Charleston City Paper
September 12, 2012
“Local middle school students show green thumbs for project”
Post & Courier
April 25, 2013
“Green Heart hosts third annual Mitchell”
Post & Courier
May 23, 2013
“CofC Affairs”
College of Charleston Blog
May 23, 2013
“The Green Heart Project”
Two Doors Down Blog
June 21, 2013
“Helping out for July 17th”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
July 17, 2013
“Boeing chooses College farm-to school initiative”
College of Charleston News Page
July 26, 2013
“Eat your broccoli and smoothies”
Post & Courier
August 17, 2013
“Its Friday and I’m in love with Green Heart”
Lula Kate Blog
September 13, 2013
“Harvest Dinner Supports School Garden Projects”
Channel 4 News Charleston
May 1, 2014