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 at 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 at 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.

Meeting Street Elementary at Burns

3750 Dorchester Rd, North Charleston, SC 29405

James Simons Montessori School

741 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Charleston Catholic School

888 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Charleston Charter School for Math & Science

1002 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Compass Collegiate Academy

34 Race St, Charleston, SC 29403

Daniel Island School – Affiliate

2365 Daniel Island Dr, Charleston, SC 29492

St. Andrews School for Math & Science – Affiliate

30 Chadwick Dr, Charleston, SC 29407

Ashley River Creative Arts – Affiliate

1871 Wallace School Rd, Charleston, SC 29407

Carolina Youth Development Center – Affiliate

5055 Lackawanna Blvd, North Charleston, SC 29405

Burke High School

244 President Street, Charleston, SC, 29403

Pepperhill Elementary School

3300 Creola Road, North Charleston, SC, 29420

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. amanda@greenheartsc.org

Kenai McFadden
Youth Development Program Director

Kenai returned to his home state of South Carolina to serve as the Youth Development 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

Kimberly Perrineau-Jackson
Operations Director

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 Director

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

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. sean@greenheartsc.org

Erin Snow
Garden Educator & Development Coordinator

Erin has been an elementary school teacher for the last 10 years.  Her Kindergarten class became part of the first group of students to participate in The Green Heart Project at Meeting Street Academy in 2015, and she has been a champion of the program ever since.  One of her favorite qualities in others is curiosity, and she loves the way a garden sparks endless questions in kiddos and adults! erin@greenheartsc.org

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. nicole@greenheartsc.org

Whitney Anderson
Garden Educator

Whitney is originally from Charleston, SC. With a background working in non-profits, her passion for social justice, working with kids, and the outdoors has led her to The Green Heart Project. She is super excited to start growing food with the community! whitney@greenheartsc.org

Jane Rice
Garden Educator

Jane first found an interest in gardening while in school at Roanoke College participating in the garden club. She has a background in environmental education, and working with students both inside and outside of the classroom. Jane loves bees and trying new food! 🐝 jane@greenheartsc.org

Suzanna Ellison
Garden Educator

Zanna has been farming since 2016 when she participated in the program World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Since then, she has graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Biology, and volunteered with over a dozen farm and garden projects with sustainable food access as the focus. With experience doing ecological surveys, garden education, and urban farming, she is passionate about making growing food more accessible. suzanna@greenheartsc.org

Board of Directors

Ann Calhoun (President)
Caroline Rion (Vice President / Development Chair)
Scott Sasser (Treasurer / Past President / Finance Chair)


Kaitlin F. DaPore (Secretary)

Medical University of South Carolina

Karalee Nielsen Fallert (Founder)

All Good Industries

Morneek Bellinger-Holloway

Mitchell Elementary School

Temitope Leyimu

Motley Rice Law Firm

Annie Kouba

Motley Rice Law Firm

Rusty Bennett
Katie Saylors


Jarvis White

JWhite Consulting Firm



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

The Kennedy – Herterich Foundation

Community Sponsor

Friends of Sullivan’s Island Elementary

Community Sponsor

AC Entertainment

Community Sponsor

Spectrum Concessions

Community Sponsor

Terri Henning

Community Sponsor

Francie & John Downing

Community Sponsor

Limehouse Produce

Community Sponsor

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Community Sponsor

Truist Foundation

Community Sponsor

Garden Sponsors

Garden Sponsor

Lindsey & Wes Carter

Garden Sponsor

Volvo Car USA

Garden Sponsor

Motley Rice

Garden Sponsor

Steve & Maria Mungo

Garden Sponsor

American Heart Association

Garden Sponsor

Charles Howell & Linda Maninger

Garden Sponsor

Ann & Jim Calhoun

Garden Sponsor

George Stevens

Garden Sponsor

Pathfinder Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Stephen Hanson

Garden Sponsor

TBonz Foundation Inc.

Garden Sponsor

Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Pinnacle Financial Partners

Garden Sponsor

Bloom Foundation

Garden Sponsor


Garden Sponsor

Harriet P McDougal

Garden Sponsor

Ceres Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Costal Community Foundation

Garden Sponsor

The Agricultural Society of S.C.

Garden Sponsor

Brad & Jola Newman

Garden Sponsor

Rion Family Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Sisters of Charity Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Turner Foundation

Garden Sponsor

TD Charitable Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Kelly Ann Siedentop

Garden Sponsor

Roper St. Francis Hospital

Garden Sponsor

Robert L & Mary J Bartlett Foundation

Garden Sponsor

Susan Pearlstine

Garden Sponsor

Gaia Fund

Garden Sponsor

Free Fly

Garden Sponsor

Nancy & Steven Feinberg

Garden Sponsor

Boeing ECF

Program Sponsors

Program Sponsor

GrowFood Carolina

Program Sponsor

Blue Ion

Program Sponsor

Crescent Homes

Program Sponsor

Frederick Baker

Program Sponsor

Rich Yessian

Program Sponsor

Timothy Liptak

Program Sponsor

Fran & Doug Blom

Program Sponsor

Beemok Family Foundation

Program Sponsor

Harriett E Lee

Program Sponsor

The Joanna Foundation

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”
“New Urban Farm at Charleston Affordable Housing Complex to Break Ground Next Month”
Urban Organic Gardener
November 7, 2019
“New Urban Farm at Charleston Affordable Housing Complex to Break Ground Next Month”
Urban Organic Gardener
November 7, 2019
“Helping Out”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 30, 2019
“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
“Green Heart Project Hosts Local Dinner at Mitchell Elementary School”
Charleston City Paper
May 24, 2012
“Green Heart Harvest Dinner”
Charleston Magazine
December 8, 2011