Annita Seckinger, Treasurer

Annita holds a BSc in Environmental Science & Policy with a concentration in Soils and Water from U. of Maryland. She has also obtained a minor in Environmental Ethics as well as a Certificate on Wetland Delineation. In addition, she holds a MSc in Sustainability from the Blekinge Technical Institute, Karlskrona Sweden. For almost a decade, Annita was co-owner and Office Manager of Custom Travel and Vacations, an agency that was created to promote Eco-travel. More recently she worked as an Environmental Scientist for the Water Quality Program at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She then moved to New Delhi, India to work as an educator and consultant at Swechha, an Indian non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to educating the of youth of India in creating a more sustainable environment, particularly around issues of water and waste. She is also a co-founder of a Not for Profit soils and water management NGO entitled Creation Care International (CCI). Currently she is working as an Independent Environmental Consultant and “eco-coach” in the D.C, area. Her latest project, the Watts Branch Watershed Alliance is a non-profit that works to promote the importance of knowing and caring for our local watersheds in order to preserve our natural ecosystems.

Julie Perlman

Julie Perlman has lived in Montgomery County since 1966 and in River Falls for 45 years. Julie comes from a long line of home gardeners and composters. Julie twice served as president of the Potomac Village Garden Club. The club maintains the plantings around the Potomac Library and does volunteer work for the County’s seniors. Under her leadership, the club received the Golden Trowel award from Keep Montgomery County Beautiful in 2010. Julie researched, developed and edited the club’s recently published plant guide to the library’s gardens. It is now available to library users and visitors.  The club also offers a Nature Detective program for children six to ten, using the library grounds. Julie is a member of the Landscape Design Council of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.

Julie is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, majored in chemistry and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Yale University. She taught chemistry at several Montgomery County schools and the University of Maryland.

Julie’s volunteer work includes coaching an MSI soccer team for five years; teaching ESL for 15 years at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville; 15 years as a garden docent and currently leading garden tours at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens, Washington, DC; Leadership Gift Committee for her Mount Holyoke College’s 50th reunion; Treasurer of her Mount Holyoke class for 20 years and working with NACEL for 10 years, an organization which arranges teenage exchanges with France and Spain.

She has four grown children and six grandchildren.

Tory Cowles

Tory Cowles is a parent, an artist and a teacher with a deep commitment to John Dewey’s educational philosophy of learning by doing which was the topic of her dissertation at Bennington College.  She has taught art to middle school students and high school students, and is now on the staff of the Yellow Barn teaching abstract art to adults.  She was one of the founding members and the first treasurer of the Save the Glen Echo Park Foundation which formed to preserve the park as a performing and visual arts educational park.  She was also a board member of the Touchstone Gallery, a non-profit artist cooperative gallery, and a board member of Green Acres School, a progressive elementary school where her children went to school.  Tory believes that children need to know how they fit into the cycle of life, where their food comes from, and the importance of the health of the soil and our planet.  They need to be empowered by understanding that they can grow their own food and care for their small piece of this world.


Executive Director


Management Intern

Madison Gentilo is a senior at Walter Johnson High School, Bethesda, Maryland. She has been a volunteer at the Brickyard Educational Farm where she interacted with elementary school children teaching them about where their food comes from and the magic of the ecology. She engaged in all the projects that needed to be performed to support an organic farm including the signage shown above in this website. But just as intended for the students, Madison became passionate about science and the wonder of biodiversity, the biosphere and especially microbiology which she plans to major in at college next year. Now as an intern to the Chesapeake Sustainability Institute, she has been very helpful to the board of directors conducting research, assisting in technical support and being a student representative for sustainability and local organic farming.

Advisory Board

Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of Montgomery Countryside Alliance

Caroline, who has the great fortune to live with her family within Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve south of Poolesville, has worked on environmental and food advocacy issues for much of her professional career. Her studies at University of Virginia included environmental science and landscape architecture. After working in communications and environmental law with Covington and Burling, Caroline joined with a talented group of lawyers and advocates at National Wildlife Federation during the 1990s working on a wide range of cases and issues including: Spotted Owl, Key Deer, Exxon oil spill, food policy, forest preservation and, water resources. Her passion, though, has always been local issues including protection of the Ag Reserve’s groundwater and working lands. Caroline comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers, from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Idaho. In 2011, Caroline joined with Jessica Weiss of growingSoul to become a founding member of the Montgomery Food Council. Caroline has served as executive director of Montgomery Countryside Alliance since 2009 working to protect and promote Montgomery County's 106,000 acre Agricultural Reserve.

Carrie Smedira

Carrie Smedira is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Intelligent Lookup Services, a small family company in Gaithersburg started by her father in 1996. Carrie's passions are food and food biodiversity, as well as the conservation of big cats and sustainable land use. Carrie began volunteering with the Save Nick's Farm campaign in March 2011 by writing letters to editors and attending several meetings, including a closed-door meeting with Nick Maravell and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. Carrie holds a B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Population Science from Syracuse University.

Linda Rieger

Linda Rieger has been highly involved in the drive for community gardens for decades, starting with the vegetable garden she and her husband had at Purdue and Stanford when she was a graduate student.  She served as an adjunct faculty member in the California university system.  When she and her husband moved back to Maryland in 1973 to be close to their family in Virginia, she taught as an adjunct faculty member at American University supervising the student teachers in their special education programs.  She is an activist in Maryland who has worked with the legislature to get laws changed for educational and environmental purposes.  She has received grants for developing a school garden while she was teaching in a middle school in Fairfax County, Virginia.  She has partnered with universities to get the children she taught involved in environmental projects.  Linda holds a Postgraduate Professional License through the Commonwealth of Virginia through 2018 for Elementary Education for Pre-K-6, Emotional Disturbances K-12, Intellectual Disabilities K-12, and Specific Learning Disabilities K-12 which recognizes her work for her curriculum development in science and her participation in a contract to develop the Standards of Learning tests in science (especially environmental science) in Pennsylvania.  As president of Pathways into Science, President of the Potomac Village Garden Club and Beautification Chair for the River Falls Civic Association, she is intimately involved in the issue of the sustainability of our gardens and food sources. Linda is a Lifetime Member of the National Educational Association and a member of the National Science Teachers Association.  She teams with her husband, two sons and 5 grandchildren in landscaping for reducing run-off, gardening and  wildlife ecology projects.

Marc Elrich

Marc Elrich was elected to his first at-large term on the Montgomery County Council in November 2006. Marc brings to the Council extensive experience in local government, civic involvement, and public education. He currently serves on the Montgomery County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED), where he focuses on ensuring that development occurs at a pace that fits our infrastructure’s ability to handle it. Marc also serves on the Council’s Public Safety Committee, where he takes a special interest in juvenile issues. Marc also serves as a member of the Transportation Planning Board of the DC Metropolitan Council of Governments.

Marc served 10 terms as a member of the Takoma Park City Council where he focused on practical solutions to the problems faced by his constituents.  He helped oversee a budget of $19.3 million and the services the City provides directly, including a library, housing department, police service, public works, recreation facilities, waste collection and recycling program.

Marc developed expertise in planning, economic development and transportation while serving on the Montgomery County Transportation Policy Report Task Force, the Silver Spring Redevelopment Task Force and on a County advisory committee reviewing a sector plan.  He was president of his civic association and has been a leader in civic groups working to decrease traffic congestion. He also has been an active member of citizen groups advocating for improvements for schools, sustainable development, the environment, equality and rights.

Currently, Marc is proposing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for the county as a major transportation infrastructure investment.  A countywide BRT system could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce congestion, and allow economic development without the negative traffic consequences.

As a 5th grade teacher at Rolling Terrace Elementary School for 16 years, Marc was a strong supporter of smaller class sizes, school modernization and curriculum that helps students to learn.  As a Councilmember, he focuses on improving education and opportunity for all Montgomery County students.

Marc attended Montgomery County Public Schools and graduated from Einstein High School. He earned a BA in History from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University.

Marc raised his now adult children in Montgomery County and has four grandchildren.

Olivia Yu

Olivia has a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with a specialization in Soil, Water, and Land Resources and a BS in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Zoology from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also holds a Masters of Science from the Department of Geography at McGill University. Her thesis focused on the impact of sheep grazing on a tidal salt marsh’s carbon storage potential in the St. Lawrence River estuary. Currently, she is a graduate student at University of California, Davis in the Department of Viticulture and Enology. She spends most of her time occupied with the relationships between soil management and greenhouse gas emissions in vineyards.

Olivia has worked for local and federal governments and academic institutions on projects related to freshwater ecology, soil microbiology, wetland bio-geochemistry, fish biology, and soil science.  Wanting others to experience and appreciate the world and its intricacies as much as herself, Olivia discovered that she enjoys sharing her knowledge with students of any age. As a volunteer scientist for a Berkeley, CA-based non-profit organization called Bay Area Scientists In Schools, Olivia presented lessons about soils to second- and third-grade students. She co-taught a mini-course on local California water issues for senior citizens at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes’ Davis chapter. Recently, she participated in Sacramento County 4-H’s On The Wild Side program.  Despite living in California, she maintains her East Coast ties through her involvement with Chesapeake Institute for Land, Sustainable Food, and Agriculture.

Gail Dalferes

Growing up, Gail visited extended family in Georgia and South Carolina during summer breaks, with opportunities to tend rows of corn and other crops, to pick blackberries and to help care for chickens, pigs and other farm animals.  These experiences shaped a love and respect for the natural world, as well as the interconnectedness of humans with nature.  Making this type of exposure easily accessible to Montgomery County school children through programs like CILSFA is an invaluable investment.  Gail volunteers in many capacities, with a local focus on efforts to save Ten Mile Creek and educating decision makers and parents on the value of natural grass over the dangers of artificial turf to children and the environment.  Since 2008 Gail has served as the Beautification Committee Chair for the Parkwood Residents Association, creating/maintaining five community gardens, performing routine Rock Creek cleanup and working with residents and the county to replace street trees lost to age, storm damage and power company ‘trimming’.  Gail is a co-founder of, on online community sharing information on issues such as land use and environmental stewardship, and Vice President of the US Board of Nyumbani, a children’s home for orphans with HIV/AIDS, community outreach center and village for sustainability in Kenya, Africa.  Gail has a Master of Science in Engineering and Technology Management from George Washington University. Since 1993 she has worked for an international media company in the information technology department, with the bulk of her time spent as manager of the business application customer service team, supporting all US properties, and product life-cycle manager for the service desk software deployed company-wide.

Edward J. Guss, Former President

Edward Jon Guss is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Business and Management at the University of Maryland University College. Since 1988 he has taught a wide variety of courses emphasizing organizations as systems and the human side of management.  Edward has served our nation as an officer in the United States Army and a Senior Executive in Federal Service spanning a 35 year career. As a charter member of the Senior Executive Service Edward has held senior executive management positions in seven different executive branch cabinet departments or agencies, serving nine presidential administrations. He was the Vice President and Founding Member of the Foundation for Health Education, a Non-Profit 501 C 3 organization dedicated to health education of children through Health Education Centers. He has been a consultant in management, leadership and education with clients in the private and public sectors. Edward’s formal education includes a BS in Business Administration from Seton Hall University, an MA in Public Administration from the University of Maryland and a Post Graduate Fellowship at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He and his wife have five children and seven grandchildren.