UMHS Wrong Business Model for Rural Maryland by Stephan Sonn


When the University of Maryland undertook the business of acquiring properties and setting up shop on the Eastern Shore, it did so with a business model riddled with septic flaws and misconceptions that patients and other ordinary humans should not have to endure.

The burden for supporting rural medical care has always fallen on the state and ultimately the federal government, as do the needs of dependencies like Samoa and Puerto Rico…Arizona needs water piped in and oranges don’t grow in Minnesota, The current game plan treats health-care services here like a commodity, and that is a flawed measure for an intangible.

The best that modern medicine is offered and withdrawn at the whim and will of an unrealistic profit model, that presumes capacities quite beyond the economic realities and cultural/professional infrastructure of rural areas. The Eastern Shore is an agrarian society, modest in economic development and quite needy if compared to the greater community of Maryland ‘s populous Western Shore. Exporting technology to the Shore is no guarantee that the transplant will work, particularly on such a short leash with such a fickle mooring.

So the Eastern Shore is not a candidate for a self-sustaining, fee-based structure in the usual sense, without some subsidy, particularly for young physicians to locate here.

Surrounded as we are by media and paved connections to healthcare technology, there is no guarantee or even reasonable assurance that a woman will safely have her baby. And that is what this is all about. Cut and transport is plan B and won’t work humanely.

The University needs to take better care of its client service constituency, and find another model more sophisticated than just simple supply and demand, tempering patient healthcare by sacrifice. There are just too many escape hatches, so the University of Maryland can avoid rather than fulfill. Closing down OBGYN services comes to mind.

In the short run, it is a matter of geography, delivery logistics, and a more realistic game plan that will match the integrity expected from the state educational institution. Acquiring our medical center is an initiative, not just a purchase.

Shore Gourmet Launches new Food Products


As any entrepreneur can tell you there is more to a successful business than just having a good idea. Launching a successful food product can be particularly challenging. In fact, the success rate for new food products is only 10 to 11 percent.

In July 2009, Shore Gourmet of Easton, Md., a service-oriented non-profit organization, formed to help food product entrepreneurs or “value-added food producers” beat those daunting odds. This year it is introducing new expanded services and strategies to help these producers as well as expand its geographic reach.

Building on its past successes as well as challenges, Shore Gourmet will implement a variety of changes this year including:

Increasing distribution channels – This initiative includes growing restaurant or specialty market outlets throughout the Eastern Shore and Delaware as well as organizing consumer buying clubs at office buildings, businesses and in communities, as appropriate. A successful buyer’s club pilot program was hosted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture at the end of last year.

Expanding service area beyond the Mid-Shore – Previously, Shore Gourmet served Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties. It is now expanding its market area to the entire Eastern Shore, as well as Delaware. Shore Gourmet currently has producers in Somerset, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Talbot counties in Maryland and in Sussex and New Castle counties in Delaware.

Establishing a network of technical business service providers – This regionally-based support network will be created in partnership with the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center. It will provide one on one business counseling to value-added food producers, functioning much like the Small Business Administration’s SCORE program. Some providers will offer services on a fee basis while others will volunteer.

Additional efforts to enhance growth and keep Shore Gourmet’s efforts relevant to both value-added food producers and their customers include pursuing market research through a Federal State Market Improvement Program grant from the USDA. This effort will be a collaboration between Shore Gourmet and the Maryland and Delaware Departments of Agriculture. If secured, the grant will examine the effectiveness of the Shore Gourmet model and determine alternatives for future sustainability. Through the grant, Shore Gourmet expects to identify value-added food producers in all counties of the Eastern Shore and Delaware and examine the demand for local products.

“Shore Gourmet and its value-producers have enjoyed significant successes in a relatively short period of time,” says Brad Powers, president of Shore Gourmet. “We’ve also learned a lot by implementing a variety of strategies and tactics. By building on our successes and identifying areas that we consistently need to monitor, like market demand, we can keep the organization relevant in the marketplace and attract and help new value-added food producers who can beat the odds,” he adds.

Incorporated in 2009, Shore Gourmet is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and sustain food and agricultural value-added businesses by providing free support to local entrepreneurs to start, grow and diversify value-added food products such as local cheeses, sauces and rubs, meats, soups, seafood products and desserts. Since its inception, Shore Gourmet has been funded mostly by USDA Rural Development and some state grants. Now serving Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Delaware, the organization’s primary financial goal for 2012 and 2013 is to become self-sufficient via increased sales of local food products. For more information, contact Kevin Deighan, general manager at (410) 770-4454 or or visit

Farm Dinners on the Shore Celebrates 3rd Season


Chef Jester Cooks

Farm Dinners on the Shore, a venture begun in 2010 which pairs regional chefs, local foods and upper Eastern Shore farms to create fine dining events right on the farms, begins its 2012 season early, returning to Priapi Gardens in Cecilton for an April 14 debut.

This year Farm Dinners on the Shore is offering a more intimate connection to farm dining, making use of settings that focus on specific attributes of each farm. This will be evident at their first Dinner Series, Saturday, April 14 at Priapi Gardens where dinner will be served in a greenhouse. Farm Dinners on the Shore Executive Chef Robbie Jester’s menu is designed to reflect the greenhouse theme, and features produce grown at Priapi Gardens. Reservations for the dinner may be made at through Saturday, April 7.

Priapi Gardens is known for their produce, plants and organic CSA which began in 2011, as well as for their commitment to being “environmental stewards”, employing production practices based on their core value of being “Bay Friendly”, using virtually no pesticides and recycling irrigation water to limit nutrients escaping into the Chesapeake Bay.

Farm Dinners on the Shore will also return to Crow Farm in Kennedyville , timed for the debut of the white and rose wines of Crow Vineyard July 13 and 14. Reservations for the Crow Farm Dinner Series will be available mid-June.

Farm Dinners on the Shore is under the direction of Executive Chef Robbie Jester, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has been selected for the coveted Governor O’Malley’s Buy Local Cook Off in 2009, 2010 and 2011, consulting chef at Chestertown’s Harbor House Restaurant, and chef at Wilmington, Delaware’s hot ticket Piccolino Toscana. Jester’s skills have won him inclusion in trainings from New York to Spain, and his experiences are reflected in the menus he designs.

Chef Jester collaborates with a team of chefs in orchestrating each Dinner. Returning later this season is Chef Sabrina Sexton, a professional chef, educator and recipe developer, training the next generation of great chefs as a Chef-Instructor at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She studied Culinary Arts at The Institute of Culinary Education and mastered her craft through an apprenticeship in Paris at Taillevent. Chef Sexton honed her skills cooking in some of New York City’s finest restaurant kitchens. Cooking under Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern, in the pastry and culinary departments, she was ultimately promoted to Tavern Chef, running the casual, front room of the restaurant. Prior to that, Sabrina worked for David Waltuck at Chanterelle as a line cook.

Also returning is Chef Rob Parker, a graduate of the Restaurant School of Philadelphia, an education that included an instructional culinary tour of France! The classical techniques he learned came in handy as he  progressed to apprenticeships at Philadelphia’s premier restaurants Striped Bass and Le Bec Fin. Chef Parker’s 14 years with the Hotel DuPont and DuPont Country Club landed him with the rank of Sous Chef supervising Banquets, Member Dining and the Brantwyn Mansion. Chef Parker has discovered yet another area of expertise in his current capacity as Culinary Instructor and a regular demonstrator at Celebrity Kitchens in Wilmington.

A portion of the proceeds from the Farm Dinners on the Shore dinners is donated to organizations promoting conservation, preservation and sustainability of our local rural environment and way of life. To join the Farm Dinners on the Shore mailing list email

Saturday, April 14, 2012
5:30 pm Farm Tour
6:00 Dinner

Farm Dinners on the Shore
Priapi Gardens 

Buzz: Osprey Point & Java Rock Score in Best of Poll


Inn at Oprey Point

The results are in from Maryland Life’s “Free State’s Finest'” readers’ poll!  Kudos to the Inn at Osprey Point for being one of the best in Fine Dining, and Java Rock in Rock Hall as scoring in the best Coffee House department

Check out the whole list here

My Girl, Pearl


We had guinea hens when I was a child on the farm. They were so funny-looking and did such silly things as lay eggs when they were roosting in a tree. Back on the ground the hens would sometimes have a common nest with as many as 20 eggs, and they hid them well. As for maternal instinct, many times they simply abandoned the eggs and went off to find bugs or worms. The eggs made particularly good ammunition for bored children, and the older the eggs the better. I understand their meat is very tasty, but eating a guinea hen, I think, would be akin to eating a frog. And frogs aren’t in my diet.

Pearl was my rescued white guinea hen. A friend offered her to me. Her mates were bullying her and she needed a new home before she was picked naked. She got one with my hens who eyed her as an undesirable and left her alone. She was a force to be reckoned with. An extremely pushy gal she was. She looked like an antediluvian species of fowl, with a large white, puffy-speckled body and a tiny pointed head and red wattles. She didn’t cluck like a hen either, she made a high-pitched “peet-peet-peet!”.

At feeding time she’d be the first to burst out of the hen house to see if there were any leftover veggies, spaghetti or fruit. I liked to think I was special to her, but knew in my heart that I was merely a food source.

One day I arrived at feeding time and there wasn’t the usual wild rush and the frantic greeting of “peet-peet-peet.” Pearl had disappeared during the night. How she did it is a mystery, because her wing was clipped and aerodynamically it would have been impossible for her to fly. It would be like a plane flying with one and one-half wings. There were no sad piles of white feathers, no evidence of a break-in by any four-footed critters.

I’ve since learned that mature guinea fowl, if transplanted, will depart if left to their own devices. If they’re hatched in one place they’ll stay there. Also, if keets, (what baby guineas are called), are raised with baby chicks, they will learn to go into the hen house and roost there instead of looking for a perch in a tree or on top of a gate or fence.

In about another month a box will arrive at the Post Office emitting tiny peeps. The Post Office will call me and I’ll go pick up my peeps, bring them home, and begin to raise them in an old watering trough. There will be 6 Delaware Whites, 6 Blue Copper Marans, 7 Araucanas and 6 Barred Rocks. And as the icing on the cake, 4 white keets!

Chestertown Warehouse Sold to Dixon Valve

The Baltimore Business Journal is reporting today the sale of a $1.5 million warehouse and distribution building in Chestertown.

KRM Development purchased the building, formerly home to the Wisco Envelope Company.

Dixon Specialty Products division plans to manufacture industrial hose couplings and accessories at the 44,800-square-foot building.

Read the full story here

Benchworks Celebrates Employee Service Anniversaries


The Chester River Yacht & Country Club was the setting for the Benchworks Employee Appreciation event on Thursday, March 1. The reception was held to honor two employees, Andrea Terry and Melissa Johnston, for their service and accomplishments.

Andrea Terry

Andrea Terry, Vice President, celebrated her 10-year anniversary with Benchworks. She has been instrumental in the company’s growth from a boutique advertising specialty company to the full-service marketing firm it is today. Andrea uses her strong communication, organizational and interpersonal skills to manage and develop key Benchworks client accounts. Prior to joining Benchworks, Andrea gained extensive marketing and account management experience in the professional services, healthcare and online product industries.

Melissa Johnston, Senior Vice President, was recognized for her years of service, and was honored as the Benchworks MVP for 2011. She started her career with Benchworks in 2005 and quickly became a valued member of the company’s management team. Today, Melissa manages Benchworks’ pharmaceutical marketing practice. In addition, her duties include implementing business procedures and controls, managing financial and balance sheet matters, helping to administer Benchworks’ go-to-market plan, and managing Benchworks’ project management staff.

Melissa Johnston

Commenting on the occasion, Benchworks president Thad Bench said, “We are very fortunate to have Andrea and Melissa on the Benchworks team. Both of these professionals give extraordinary amounts of time and effort to ensure that we deliver excellent solutions and service to our clients. Recent client wins and product line extensions are directly related to their hard work and dedication.” Bench continued, saying, “I am proud to call Andrea and Melissa my colleagues as well as my friends.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services firm headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991 and recently celebrated 20 years in business. The company specializes in the design, production, and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the pharmaceutical, beverage, automotive, manufacturing, marine, tourism and education industries in the mid-Atlantic region.

For more information, visit, or call 410-810-8862.

Breaking: Student lights flare, burns Kent County School bus


ABC 2 is reporting that the State Fire Marshall has reported that a middle school student lit a flare, causing a school bus to burn. It happened at 9:30 a.m. Monday, while the bus was on Route 20, near Broadneck Road in Chestertown. 28 students were on the bus.  All of them were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Read the full story here


Realtors Rally to Save MD’s Mortgage Interest Deduction


Hundreds of realtors and homeowners weathered a Maryland rainstorm on February 29 to turnout for the Rally on Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis, immediately in front of the State House. In a sea of umbrellas in a soaking rain, they expressed their opposition to the proposed reduction in Mortgage Interest and property tax deductions in the Budget Bill currently before the General Assembly. Maryland is the first state in the U.S. to consider reducing the mortgage interest and property tax deductions.

More than 20 Realtors from the Bay Area Association of REALTORS(R) attended the Rally to voice their opposition and protect the deductions for property owners in Kent,

BAAR Realtors(R) pictured above include (left to right): Donna Owens, BAAR President Dick Sells, BAAR Association Executive Fran Long, Bill Ruckelshaus, Sue Hitt and Paula Ruckelshaus.

Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties.