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

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
Development and Community Engagement Officer

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 Development and Community Engagement Officer 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
Program Coordinator

As a freshman at College of Charleston, a passion for sustainability and a love for the outdoors brought Allie to the Green Heart Project, where she worked as an after-school program volunteer. Throughout her undergraduate years, she volunteered and interned with Green Heart, developing a love for the gardens and strong relationships with our students and staff. After leaving the Charleston area for a year to work at an environmental non-profit in Boston, Allie is thrilled to be back working as our Farm to School Program Coordinator. She looks forward to fostering a strong community around our gardens and instilling a culture of respect for ourselves, each other and the earth. allie@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 a Program Manager and Garden Champion. 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

Emma Pohl
Lead Educator & Instructional Specialist

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 STEM 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

Carter Edwards
AmeriCorps VISTA

Carter is a recent graduate of Elon University with a B.A. in Public Health and Policy Studies. Her vested interest in community health, environmental health, and youth development led her to The Green Heart Project as an intern, Crew Leader, and year round Americorps VISTA from 2020-2021. She is an active member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals of the Lowcountry and the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Reach out with any questions carter@greenheartsc.org

Laura Pickard
Garden Educator

Laura joined the Green Heart team in 2018. With a passion for gardening and a background in school administration, the program was a perfect fit! After spending years in an administrative capacity, Laura loves being back with the students in an outdoor classroom setting. She believes that the hands-on gardening experiences can reach many types of learners and promotes a healthy lifestyle for all students. When not at Green Heart, you can find Laura at her vocational training coffee program, Independent Grounds Coffee House. laura.greenheart@gmail.com

Erin Snow
Site Coordinator & Garden Educator

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.”

Maura Gabriel
Garden Educator

I began working with The Green Heart Project in 2016 under Erin Snow at Meeting Street Academy, where I teach Pre-K.  I loved being able to experience the outdoors, culinary skills and unique taste tests with our students.  The next year, the opportunity arose to be a program manager which I immediately knew I wanted to do!  I am very passionate about exposing children to new foods and diverse ways to eat plants they are already familiar with.  Green Heart is an amazing program for all children to experience and I feel very lucky to be able to be a part of 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


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

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