Who We Are | The Green Heart Project

Mission & History

The Green Heart Project builds garden-based experiential learning projects and school garden programs to educate students connect people and cultivate community through growing, eating, and celebrating food.

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.

Amanda Howell
Development Director

Amanda’s passions for education, social justice and all-things-food are what brought her to The Green Heart Project. Earlier in her career, she was a classroom teacher with Teach for America in Oakland, CA, and later relocated to the Carolinas to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Here she focused on planning & evaluating school-based obesity prevention initiatives, especially those that included gardening and cooking enhanced nutrition education. Amanda served as Green Heart’s Program Director for three years, and is excited to continue investing the community in the GHP mission through her new role as Development Director. You can reach her at: amanda@greenheartsc.org

Kenai McFadden
Program Director

Kenai returned to his home state of South Carolina to serve as the Program Director for the Green Heart Project after six years of public health training. He brings with him experiences from Houston, Baltimore, and Atlanta, where he delivered health education programs, pursued a public health degree, practiced as an urban farmer, and communicated about outbreaks. He believes that food is a powerful vehicle for facilitating health behavior change. Kenai loves Charleston so far and enjoys expressing himself through dancing, chess, and roller skating. kenai@greenheartsc.org

Drew Harrison
Founding 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, in his role as Founding Director, Drew leads many development efforts, and supports the organization’s strategic growth in the Charleston community. You can reach him directly at: drew@greenheartsc.org

Kimberly Perrineau-Jackson
Operations Manager

The idea that everyone has the right to healthy food and her growing interest in the collaboration of agriculture and community, led Kimberly to The Green Heart Project. In her role as Operations Manager she intends to enhance awareness of growing food and the important role it serves.  She believes that cultivating communities through commitment, collaborative learning and humility among other things, will assist in her efforts. She is excited about this opportunity and looks forward to being a part of the Team! When not at Green Heart, you can find her tutoring youth, working with the family business, attending football games and spending time with her husband and children. kim@greenheartsc.org

Allie Astor
Farm to School Program Manager

A love of the outdoors and interest in food and sustainability first brought Allie to the Green Heart Project during her freshman year at the College of Charleston. Throughout her time at CofC, she volunteered as a Buddy and completed a semester-long internship with Green Heart, which helped develop a love for the gardens and foster a strong connection to students, staff and the Green Heart community as a whole. After leaving the Charleston area for a year after her graduation to work in Boston, Allie quickly found her way back to the Green Heart Project. She is passionate about fostering a strong community around our gardens and instilling a culture of respect for ourselves, each other and the earth. allie@greenheartsc.org

Emma Pohl
Lead Educator

Emma’s background in teaching and passion for health and wellness led her to The Green Heart Project. She is eager to learn alongside students as the STEAM Educator at Mitchell and Sullivan’s Island Elementary Schools. Emma believes kindness and community begins on our plates. She hopes to instill a curiosity for a lifetime of learning and wellness through hands-on experiences. When not at Green Heart, you can find her sharing yoga at Community Yoga. emma@greenheartsc.org

Rachel Meek

My adventures with The Green Heart Project began in 2018 as an apprenticeship through the Growing New Farmers program. Within this time, my Green Heart Family has helped to nurture and expand my farming interest into a newfound passion. I am currently Green Heart’s Farmer. I get to share my knowledge and skills with younger generations in hopes that they will carry these invaluable tools with them for a lifetime. I feel strongly that the best way to connect communities is with food and I am honored to be a part of the Green Heart team! rachel@greenheartsc.org

Sean Murray

Sean is a passionate farmer who loves his local community. In 2015, upon completing the Growing New Farmers program through College of Charleston he began his farming career. Sean operated Murray Heirlooms, a farm focused on growing organic, heirloom vegetables for some of the best restaurants in Charleston. He is excited to join the Green Heart team and share his knowledge with others in the community. He hopes to inspire a new generation to understand where their food comes from. When Sean’s hands aren’t in the dirt he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and watching the Boston Red Sox.

Sasha Pramesti
AmeriCorps VISTA

Sasha is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston. She is passionate about food justice, sustainability, and the intersection of food and culture, and loves how gardening can tie these passions together. She first got involved with The Green Heart Project as an after-school program volunteer in college, and is excited to return to the organization with AmeriCorps VISTA for the 2021-2022 academic year. She looks forward to the opportunity to empower Charleston’s youth and build community through urban farming.

Anna Bello
Garden Educator

Anna was born and raised in the Carolina’s farms and kitchens. After studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC, she spent time as a vegan pastry chef before attending Winthrop University. She pursued a B.A. in environmental studies, worked a year on a hydroponic lettuce farm, and served two years with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council as a FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member. She is excited to continue teaching students to learn and love their food and themselves with the Green Heart Project. When not outside, Anna practices Thai bodywork, yoga, and forms of dance and movement.

Cat Brantley
Garden Educator

A love for the outdoors, teaching, and the mission of providing equal access to healthy, fresh foods in our community brought Cat to The Green Heart Project in 2016. Since then, Cat has taught the garden programs at Sanders-Clyde Elementary and Mitchell Elementary, supported as a Green Heart Buddy, and is now the Garden Educator for the Urban Farms Programs at Enston Homes. With a degree in Art Education and several years as an Environmental Educator in Colorado, she believes that a deep rooted appreciation for nature combined with an understanding of the nutrients we need and can enjoy from the garden, create a healthy life and happy community. Cat is so excited to get outside, connect with her students, and grow the Green Heart family!

Jenna Laubner
Meeting Street Academy Garden Educator

Jenna is the art teacher at Meeting Street Academy – Charleston.  She has been teaching for 8 years and has worn many hats.  She earned her degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison, specializing in special education.  She has taught high school all the way to pre-k. She believes in a holistic education for kids; exposing them to as many opportunities and experiences as possible.  Art, the environment, sustainability, social justice and community are things she is truly passionate about.  When she’s not teaching, you can find her outdoors, making art, growing things in her own backyard, and traveling.  Be on the lookout for a new mural at our garden on Meeting Street!

Lindsay Morris
Garden Educator at Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood

Lindsay is the Upper School Dean of Students at Meeting Street @Brentwood. She served 9 years as a grade level counselor and one year as an Alumni Transition Coordinator before moving into the Dean role this year. She earned her Bachelors Degrees from College of Charleston in History and German. She has her Masters in Education from the Citadel. She has been a Green Heart Garden Educator for 2.5 years. She grew up hanging out in her father’s garden and is slowly growing her own at home. She believes in a holistic approach to education and is excited to grow minds in the garden this year!

Nicole Kleinas
Garden Educator

Nicole’s background in ecology, coupled with her passion for sustainable food systems, brought her to The Green Heart Project. After working as a research scientist and completing her Master’s degree in Biology, she shifted her focus toward environmental education and outreach by leading education programs at a botanic garden in Georgia. She believes that gardening and growing one’s food facilitates a deep connection with the environment and serves as an effective platform by which to educate people about ecology. Nicole is eager to work with students and volunteers in the garden to cultivate deeper appreciation of the natural world.

Aaron Johnson
Year-Round Youth Intern

Aaron is 17 and will be a senior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. He has been involved with Green Heart since he participated as a third grader at Mitchell Elementary. He enjoys the universe on a quiet night and coming to Green Heart and seeing a lot of wonderful people.

Will Brown
Year-Round Youth Intern

Will is 17 years old and a rising senior at Academic Magnet High School. He enjoys playing guitar, computer programming, and serving the community. As a second year intern he is truly interested in the mission of Green Heart and the progress of their urban gardening projects. 

Xavier McDaniel
Year-Round Youth Intern

Xavier is a rising senior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. He is kind of upset [about being a rising senior] but also excited to see what the world has in store for him.  His favorite Disney character is always gonna be his blue alien Stitch and he’ll never switch up on him. He can watch any Lilo and Stitch movie on repeat and enjoy it.

Board of Directors

Meredith Ebenhoeh


Scott Sasser (Vice President)


Kaitlin F. DaPore (Treasurer)


Weston Fennell (Past President)

Limehouse Produce

Kendra Stewart (Past President)

Riley Center for Livable Communities

Dirk Bedford (Past President)

Meeting Street Academy

Karalee Nielsen Fallert

Taco Boy

Michael Cain (Secretary)


Rich Yessian

Blue Ion

Morneek Bellinger-Holloway

Mitchell Elementary School

Temitope Leyimu (President)

Motley Rice Law Firm

Annie Kouba

Motley Rice Law Firm

Brittany Bryant


Ann Calhoun



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.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA)

Green Heart Partner

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their mission is to deliver conservation solutions so agricultural producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world.

Community Sponsors

Scott E. Phillips Foundation of the Coastal Community Foundation

Community Sponsor

Revelry Brewing Co.

Community Sponsor

The Boeing Company

Community Sponsor

Friends of Sullivan’s Island Elementary

Community Sponsor

High Water Music Festival

Community Sponsor

Spectrum Concessions

Community Sponsor

Henning Fund

Community Sponsor

Frances Downing

Community Sponsor

Garden Sponsors

Garden Sponsor

Morgan Herterich

Garden Sponsor

Lindsey & Wes Carter

Garden Sponsor

Le Creuset

Garden Sponsor

Limehouse Produce

Garden Sponsor

Volvo Car USA

Garden Sponsor


Program Sponsors

Program Sponsor

GrowFood Carolina

Program Sponsor

Sertoma Club of Charleston

Program Sponsor

Blue Ion

Program Sponsor

Crescent Homes

Program Sponsor

Frederick Baker

Program Sponsor

Motley Rice

Program Sponsor


Class Sponsor

In the News

The Green Heart Project
“Urban Farm: First Planting”
Count on 2
“Construction of urban farm in Downtown Charleston almost complete”
“The Green Heart Project and Clemson University Partnered to Build an Urban Farm Market Stand”
Fox 24
“Urban Farm at Enston Home Interview – Jesse Blom”
Live 5
“Urban Farm at Enston Home Interview”
The Green Heart Family
“Green Heart Thanksgiving Gratitude!”
“The Green Heart Project with Seamon Whiteside”
James Brown: Treehouse Productions
“Help Us Grow: The Green Heart Project”
Casey Toth of the Post & Courier
“The Green Heart Project Summer Camp”
College of Charleston
“Public Health Program and Farm-to-School Initiative”
Organic Process Productions
“The Green Heart Project”
“Hands-on internships made possible even in the time of COVID”
Charleston County School District (CCSD)
August 13, 2020
“Helping Out Highlights – $100K Grant”
Charleston Business
August 1, 2020
“Five urban schools awarded $100K Farm to School grant”
July 2, 2020
“Helping Out”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 30, 2019
“Green Heart Project Announces Capital Campaign in Support of New Urban Farm Project in Downtown Charleston”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 27, 2019
“Green Heart Project Announces Capital Campaign in Support of New Urban Farm Project in Downtown Charleston”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 27, 2019
“Harvest Dinner Supports School Garden Projects”
Channel 4 News Charleston
May 1, 2014
“Boeing Chooses College Farm-to School Initiative”
College of Charleston News Page
July 26, 2013
“Local Middle School Students Show Green Thumbs for Project”
Post & Courier
April 25, 2013
“Bridging the Farm-to-School GAP ”
Charleston City Paper
September 12, 2012
“Green Thumbs, and Hearts ”
Post & Courier
June 28, 2012
“Farm to School Program Takes Off”
ABC News 4 Charleston
May 24, 2012
“Featured Gardens: Common Ground”
Charleston Magazine
April 4, 2012
“Green Heart Harvest Dinner”
Charleston Magazine
December 8, 2011