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The Rural Maryland Council held its biennial summit this year on Friday, December 1, 2017 at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Annapolis

Nearly 300 rural stakeholders gathered recently for the Rural Summit “Bridging the Divide: Strengthening Rural and Urban Communities” challenging issues in agriculture, community development, economic development and health care were discussed and impressive speakers gave inspirational keynotes. However, what may be the greatest impact of the event can be summed up in one word: connections.

Attendees made connections with other attendees. Conversations from breakout sessions spilled out into the hotel’s hallways for informal meetings and plans for future meetings. The Summit’s luncheon guest speaker Dr. William E. Kirwan, chair of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, spoke of needing to make bold changes in Maryland’s educational system in order to connect students with future, good paying jobs.  In addition, a session presented by the Taskforce on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless and Cellular Service gave an update on its draft plan to provide equal access by connecting all Marylanders to high speed Internet.

“The goal of every event is to provide a compelling narrative which will inspire the attendees to action,” says Charlotte Davis, executive director, Rural Maryland Council. “This year’s Summit had all the right ingredients. We had leaders from all levels speaking on the topics they are passionate about and hard-hitting issues like needing to compete despite lacking equal access to important pieces of the puzzle like broadband. You could almost see “the aha” moments happening,” she adds.


Highlights of the event included:

  • The inaugural AgPitch where five finalists presented their ideas/business plans to compete for cash and related business services. The grand prize winner of $7,500 cash and prizes was Ben Lee of Rockville. Lee’s firm NABAS Group, Inc., (Nano Air Bubble Aeration System) increases crop yields by 20 percent and extends the harvest’s freshness for an additional seven days. AgPitch 17 was sponsored by the MidAtlantic Farm Credit with support by Clearview Group, North Central Insurance Agency and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP.

Ben Lee, left, president and CEO, NABAS Group, Inc., won the grand prize at the first-ever MidAtlantic Farm Credit AgPitch. Presenting the check are Andrew Rose, center, marketing manager, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, and Kurt Fuchs, government affairs officer, MidAtlantic Farm Credit. The contest was supported by Clearview Group, North Central Insurance Agency and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP. Photo credit: Harry Bosk

The Honorable Anne Hazlett, assistant to the Secretary of Rural Development, USDA Rural Development, tells her history relays her passion for small towns and rural life at the recent Rural Summit, hosted by the Rural Maryland Council. Photo credit: Harry Bosk

  • William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland (USM), former president of the Ohio State University, former USM president and recipient of the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence.
  • Amy Goldstein, staff writer at the Washington Post, and author of Janesville: An American Story. Named Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year, Janesville is the story of a small, proud Wisconsin city that lost the nation’s oldest operating General Motors assembly plant and the lessons it offers about economic pain and resilience.
  • Updates from Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, and a secretary panel that included the Maryland departments of Natural Resources, Budget and Management, Environment, Housing and Community Development and Commerce.

Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford addresses attendees at the recent Rural Summit in Annapolis. Photo credit: Harry Bosk

Please access the 2017 Rural Summit Event and Session Evaluation Form.

2017 Rural Summit Welcome Session Video

Task Force for Rural Broadband Session Video (2017 Rural Summit)

Rural Summit 2017 Luncheon Session Video

Presentations from the 2017 Rural Summit:






Economic Development

Community Development

Health Care



Thank you for joining us on December 1 at the Rural Maryland Council Conference to watch the five finalists present their ideas/business plans for agriculture innovation! Unlike a business plan competition, this one had the added component of the audience voting to pick the winners. Stay tuned for videos and more updates as they occur.


View the 2017 Rural Summit Agenda here.

Keynote Speakers

Amy Goldstein, Author of Janesville: An American Story, and staff writer, The Washington Post 

Amy Goldstein, Author of Janesville: An American Story, and staff writer, The Washington Post 

Photo credit: Melina Mara






What really happens to workers, families and a community when good jobs go away? Come hear the story of one small, proud Wisconsin city that lost the nation’s oldest operating General Motors assembly plant two days before Christmas, in the midst of the Great Recession – and the lessons it offers about economic pain and resilience.

Amy Goldstein is a staff writer for The Washington Post, where she writes nationally about social policy issues. Goldstein joined The Post in 1987 and worked for the next decade as a local education writer and regional health care reporter. She then moved to the newspaper’s national staff to write about health policy, covering health care debates in Congress, the White House and federal agencies–and exploring ways the health care system was evolving around the United States. In her current beat, she divides her time between in-depth pieces on social policy, including articles that examine the changing boundary between the public and private sectors, and an array of other high-profile national stories.

Access an interview with Ms. Goldstein discussing her book “Janesville” here.

Access a review of “Janesville” here.

Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland (USM)

Dr. Kirwan will speak about education reform initiatives in Maryland, and updates from the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.









This year, breakout sessions will focus on four tracks, including agriculture, community development, economic development, and health care.

Breakout Sessions


Breakout Session #1 – AgPitch!
10:00am to 10:45am │ Coastal West and Main
Five finalists have been selected to compete in AgPitch!, a Shark Tank-style business competition to present their agriculture business ideas before an audience to compete for cash and related business services.

This session will highlight the creative business ventures Maryland farmers and producers are exploring to further enhance local agriculture industries. This highly interactive session will allow audience members to view presentations by the five finalists and vote for their favorite venture that will receive a cash prize and related business services.

Breakout Session #2 – AgGIS – Grow Farming Potential with GIS
11:00am to 11:45am │ Coastal West and Main
Speakers: Mary Buffington, Eastern Shore GIS Representative

How can farmers access and view existing GIS data? How can farmers use AgGIS for farm management? What custom products can we provide farmers to help them make better agriculture decisions? This session will explore the many data layers and the obstacles that farmers face accessing GIS data.  A live demonstration of the AgGIS web mapping application will show how AgGIS is working to help farmers. This session will also demonstrate what AgGIS is, the Agriculture GIS Extension for the Mid and Lower Eastern Shore, how GIS can be applied to agriculture, and why there is a need for agriculture GIS services.

Breakout Session #3  – Value-Added Products and AgriTourism
11:00am to 11:45am │ Coastal West and Main
Moderator: Janna Howley, Grow & Fortify
Speaker: Kelly Dudeck, Grow & Fortify

Just what is value-added agriculture and agritourism and what do they mean to Maryland’s economy? Join us for a conversation about these fast-growing sectors of Maryland Agriculture. We’ll also conduct a regional scan to discuss what Maryland and neighboring states are doing through legislative, financial and regulatory efforts to support their local communities.

Community Development:

Breakout Session #1 – New Tools for Eliminating Blighted, Vacant Properties and Tax Sale Reform
10:00am to 10:45am │ Windward

Speakers: Odette Ramos, Executive Director, Community Development Network of Maryland; Cindy Smith, Grants Manager, Dorchester County Government; Dan Erhenberg, Partner, Klien Hornig, LLP; Marvin Holmes, District 23, Prince George’s County; Meredith Mishaga, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations

Learn about the new tools the General Assembly provided local governments for eliminating vacant, blighted and abandoned properties. These include changes to the Foreclosed Property Registry, enabling counties to create Land Banks, and a new expedited foreclosure law. Learn about how to use these tools to advocate for eliminating blight in your county. Also included in this session, the unveiling of the results of the Tax Sale Study group, which was established by legislation in 2017 to study and provide a new tax sale system for Maryland. During this session we will also review the issues with the current system, go over the new proposed system, and seek feedback from the audience.

Breakout Session #2 – Rural Broadband Taskforce
11:00am to 11:45am │ Windward

Speakers: Charlotte Davis, Executive Director, Rural Maryland Council

On May 25, 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill 717/ House Bill 1169 – Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017. The legislation established the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless, and Cellular Service. The 22-member task force, which includes four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Delegates, studied and made recommendations regarding how Western Maryland counties; Southern Maryland counties; Eastern Shore counties; and Frederick, Carroll, and Harford counties can work together to obtain federal assistance to improve internet, broadband, wireless, and cellular services and accessibility in the affected counties. This session will review and discuss the recommendations the task force will report to the Maryland General Assembly.

Breakout Session #3 – Affordable Housing in Maryland
2:45pm to 3:30pm │ Windward

Speakers: Odette Ramos, Executive Director, Community Development Network of Maryland; Melissa Bondi, Enterprise Community Partners; Kathleen Koch, Arundel Community Development Services

Maryland has an affordable housing crisis that afflicts rural, urban and suburban areas. Presenters in this session will detail what the crisis looks like with recent data collected, what tools there are for addressing the need, and policy initiatives to assist with addressing this crisis.

Economic Development:

Breakout Session #1 – Rural Public Schools: The Economic Engine of Rural Areas
10:00am to 10:45am │ Leeward

Speakers: Jon Andes, Executive Director, Eastern Shore of Maryland Educational Consortium; Dr. Memo Diriker, BEACON, Salisbury University

As the largest employer in rural areas, it has always been assumed that public school systems have an economic impact on rural areas. To quantify the economic impact, in 2012, the Eastern Shore of Maryland Educational Consortium commissioned “BEACON” from Salisbury University to conduct an economic impact study of the rural school systems of the Eastern Shore on the economy of the Eastern Shore. In 2015, the study was updated. The results of the study included a narrative report as well as a ‘dashboard’ showing the economic impact in each county on the Shore.  This session will present, explain, and review the results of the economic impact study.  In addition to presenting an overview of the narrative report, the presentation will share the ‘dashboard’ showing county results.  The presentation will use audience engagement to explore the implications for economic development on rural areas.

Breakout Session #2 – Placemaking Partnerships and Community Driven Economic Development on Smith Island
11:00am to 11:45am │ Leeward

Speakers: Tracey Gordy, Senior Regional Planner, Maryland Department of Planning; Nicholas Redding, Executive Director, Preservation Maryland

It takes a great deal of time and organizational skills to align all the varying interests and schedules of multiple partners, to include for-profit groups, non-profit groups, government agencies, and private businesses, in creating a community project such as a park. Come hear the story of Smith Island and how a community realized a shared vision from formulation to completion. The presentation will be rich with visuals and the personal testimonials of partners and Smith Islanders.

Attendees will be able to articulate the significance of and key strategies for building mutually beneficial relationships between private, public, and local organizations in the pursuit of complicated solutions to confounding problems; be able to describe how the team leveraged a small amount of funding into a project with a huge return on investment for a small community, and be able to transfer this learning to a similar small project in their own jurisdictions; and, be able to express how both the Smith Island community and their own can develop and implement a strategy, from visioning to placemaking, that will serve as a foundation for community and economic development for years.

Breakout Session #3 – Transfer of Wealth in Rural Maryland – Measuring Rural Maryland’s Philanthropic Potential
2:45pm to 3:30pm │ Leeward

Speakers: Charlotte Davis, Executive Director, Rural Maryland Council

America is in the midst of the greatest intergenerational transfer of wealth (TOW) in our history. Between 2017 and 2066, it is estimated that $72 trillion (in 2016 dollars) will transfer from one generation to another in the U.S. In the coming decade, 2016 through 2026, the TOW opportunity is over $7.7 trillion. TOW is an estimate of American household wealth from which charitable giving could be realized. Come learn about the TOW Study conducted by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship for rural Maryland, with support of the Rural Maryland Foundation, the study’s findings, and next steps in the strategic planning process.

Health Care:

Breakout Session #1 – Maryland’s Updated Rural Health Plan
10:00am to 10:45am │ Coastal East

Speakers: Lara Wilson, Executive Director, Maryland Rural Health Association

The Maryland Rural Health Association will present on the process, key findings, and recommendations of the recently updated Maryland Rural Health Plan. Presentation will include a detailed review of the process taken to obtain county data using a ground-up approach. A summary of key finding and policy recommendations will also be provided with the opportunity for questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to provide feedback on both the process as well as the content of the Rural Health Plan in order to continually strive for process improvement for future iterations.

Breakout Session #2 – The Science of Transforming Culture through Identity
11:00am to 11:45am │ Coastal East

Speakers: Mark Boucot, President and Chief Executive Officer, Garrett Regional Medical Center

Solving for Why: The Science of Transforming Culture through Identity focuses on using an organization’s identity to drive success for both the individuals working within the organization and the organization itself. Especially in the chaotic world of today’s health care environment, identity, or why an organization does what it does, can be used to engage, entrust, and empower employees. How a leader creates the environment that allows identity to drive the organization is paramount to the organization’s ability to successfully serve its customers and reach its full potential.

Participants will understand how the “Why” of what we do can drive an organization’s ability to provide meaningful work experiences for employees, resulting in greater success for both individuals and the institution; understand the importance of using an evidenced-based approach to developing organizational culture in today’s ever-changing health care industry; and, gather insights on how Leaders can use organization identity to create a workplace in which employees see themselves functioning, contributing, and succeeding.

Breakout Session #3 – The Triple Aim of Population Health
2:45pm to 3:30pm │ Coastal East

Speakers: Temi Oshiyoye, Director, State Office of Rural Health; Dr. Cheryl DePinto, Office of Population Health Improvement

This presentation will highlight the unique position and successes Maryland has had towards health care delivery reform.  This will include an overview of Maryland’s health care delivery transformation activities including the All Payer Model, Maryland Comprehensive Primary Care Model and how these efforts relate and map onto the State Health Improvement Process (SHIP) and primary care access across Maryland. To build upon the framework for thinking about population health improvement within the context of healthcare delivery reform the presenters will facilitate a broad discussion around how local health departments and community based organizations contribute to and interact with health care delivery reform in Maryland and how the Office of Population Health Improvement (OPHI) can better assist in this effort.