Harking back to the days when his family operated its own canning facility on the Eastern Shore, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, joined Gov. Larry Hogan and other officials in celebrating the grand opening of Phillips Packing House, a revitalized canning facility that will serve as a community engagement hub and further UMB’s programs in the region.

University of Maryland, Baltimore President Bruce E. Jarrell shows a tomato can from his family’s Eastern Shore business to Gov. Larry Hogan.

The building will serve as the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) new Eastern Shore satellite office and Community Engagement Center. The office and center will serve as anchor tenants in the redeveloped facility and will provide critical housing and community services and outreach to Eastern Shore residents. The remaining Packing House tenants will build on the Eastern Shore’s deep tradition of agriculture and aquaculture while providing modern tech and creative opportunities.

The facility will also host retail eateries and 411 Kitchen, a state-of-the-art, shared-use kitchen for food production that received funding through Project Restore, the governor’s economic recovery initiative that provides financial incentives for small businesses and commercial developers to revitalize vacant retail and commercial space.

UMB is contributing $750,000 to the DHCD office in Cambridge to assist its economic development activities and collaborations with University System of Maryland institutions. 

Hogan thanked DHCD Secretary Ken Holt, Acting Mayor/Cambridge Commissioner Lajan Cephas, Cross Street Partners CEO Bill Struever, and Jarrell “for their collective commitment to this exciting project.”

A native of the Eastern Shore who grew up on a tomato farm, Jarrell is committed to UMB’s mission of improving the human condition, not only as an anchor institution in Baltimore, but throughout Maryland, including the Eastern Shore.

At his inauguration in November 2021, Jarrell announced that his lifelong friend, Lawrence Hayman, chairman of H&M Bay, Inc., a logistics and storage company based on the Eastern Shore, where they both grew up, had stepped up to brighten futures of Eastern Shore families with a pledge of nearly $18 million, which will be used to support newly minted health care workers and encourage them to set up practice on the Eastern Shore, and to provide Eastern Shore students scholarships to pursue health care and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

“If you listen hard enough, you will hear in the walls of this place, a buzz, a buzz of 100 years of activity,” Jarrell said at the June 10 Packing House ribbon-cutting ceremony. Throughout the Eastern Shore, “there were churches, firehouses, schools, but there were also canning factories and in those canning factories, so many of us learned the value of family, of hard work, of role models, of learning what we could become. I was one of those people, and I got so much out of it.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, the canning factories started to disappear and his family’s was no exception, said Jarrell, holding an empty tomato can from the family business.

“There was no more beehive in the community,” he said. “And you could see the disrepair that this particular building, which is not the exception, is the rule here on the Shore. Now I think that beehive is back, and I want to thank Governor Hogan and Secretary Holt, and this Cambridge group for being smart enough to see that this was a beehive then and it should become a beehive again, a chance for young people to see the future.

“It’s a proud moment for me, for the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to be a part of this,” he continued. “Not just because I grew up in it, but because I believe in Maryland. And this is an important part of Maryland.”

UMB’s initial activities at the Packing House include:

  • Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) — ALEI’s legal specialists and agriculture extension specialists help farmers (including aquafarmers) understand and comply with state, federal, and local laws and regulations. Farmers gain hands-on assistance with their existing businesses as well as assistance in diversifying into other agriculture-based products. ALEI will host conferences and in-person education programs in the Packing House.
  • Engaging other universities and health care entities in the Packing House. UMB has convened several meetings with the leadership of Salisbury University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, Chesapeake College, and the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health to explore bringing other community-focused academic and health science initiatives to Cambridge.

In addition to ALEI, other UMB initiatives already in the Eastern Shore region include:

  • Dual-admission agreements between the University of Maryland School of Nursing and local community colleges
  • A physician assistant training program
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology Education and Research Program (GGEAR), a state-funded program developed in 1987 to support interprofessional educational and research activities in the field of geriatrics and gerontology that are designed to bolster the well-being of older adults and improve quality of later life. GGEAR co-hosts a variety of conferences for professionals, paraprofessionals, and the lay community, including the annual Family Caregiver Conference in Southern Maryland and annual conferences for nursing assistants in the greater Baltimore metropolitan area and on the Eastern Shore.
  • A telehealth program in several counties to assist opioid abuse disorder patients on maintenance medications.
  • Nine evidence-based programs coordinated by UMB’s Institute for Innovation and Implementation.