Sugar Water Manor: Owning and Operating a B&B Homestead
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Deep in the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland sits the historic Sugar Water Manor. The current owners have refurbished, renovated, and restored the main home, the farmhouse, the homestead, and the loft and run a farm bed and breakfast here.
Let me introduce you to Dana and David Zucker, the farmers and proprietors of the property. I was happy to meet with Dana and David in 2020, and we kept in touch after.
The Zuckers are close to retirement age with no plans to sit on the sidelines. The historic 1804 main house and the property are blossoming under their care. They have proceeded with renovations and hosting guests during the global pandemic, all while maintaining a safe and welcoming getaway location.
The beautiful homestead bed and breakfast features waterfront living, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and the whole farm experience if you enjoy friendly farm critters.
The story’s beginning goes back to 1992 during a first visit to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Fast forward to nine years ago, when David found the property listing and they saw the beautiful location, they knew the time was right to begin their future retirement home. Still not officially retired, David works full time during the week and works the farm and property on the weekends.
In Dana’s words, “About nine years ago, we started looking for a summer house. We knew we wouldn’t be able live there full time until we fully retired, given David’s work. We were looking for a few key factors in the property: moving water, a place for a garden and animals, and a location that would entice the family to visit. I was in Iceland on a press trip covering food and tourism. David called and said, ‘What do you think about Salisbury, Maryland?’ I had no clue where that was, but I stopped on my way home and fell in love immediately. I came back two weeks later and looked at 10 homes. Sugar Water Manor won my heart. I would have moved here if there was only one house. The location met all of our requirements. We packed up, and a few weeks later, we moved in. Fortunately, David found a great work opportunity. We had no intention of having a bed and breakfast or homestead. We just wanted a little garden. I didn’t think I could work hard enough to have a homestead.”
After a few months, the gardens grew bigger. The farm animals kept coming, and before they knew it, the Zuckers had become homesteaders. Growing food and growing animals won them over. They felt that the place they called home was too special to not share with others.
Dana wears many hats each day. Managing renovations, animal care, hospitality, chef, and grounds manager are just a few of her daily tasks. I asked her how she stays organized.
“Staying organized is a priority. I have lists, calendars, and more lists,” adding that she’s old, “so it’s all on paper.”
All of us bring a lifetime of skills, training, and experience to the homestead life, no matter our age. What skills did Dana and David bring to Sugar Water Manor?
Dana’s past includes running a non-profit early childhood center and a few years of running a marine rescue rehab and release center. She also started her own websites and consulting business that is focused on social media and influencer marketing. In her opinion, her skills were varied, but none included the skills needed for actual day-to-day homestead activities with animals and gardens.
David continues to work in marketing, with degrees in wildlife biology and economics. They have a plan that includes watching how other homesteaders do things, asking questions, and writing their own story of what worked for them. They believe in hiring the best partners to help them with what they still need to learn.
Of course, this savvy couple has a plan for the future, too. The farm, bed and breakfast, and lifestyle is their retirement plan. They plan to build a business where they can hire a manager to run the property. Training, investing in their staff, and working to keep them is the plan. The county they live in is the poorest in the state. Creating employment opportunities for local residents is an impact they hope to make by keeping Sugar Water Manor thriving. In addition, Dana and David have weekly business meetings to review the business and homestead, look at the big picture, and make adjustments.
The advice from the Zuckers if you are considering a bed and breakfast business as a retirement plan is to start small and keep assessing what you are doing. Do good and do more. Do not make homesteading about removing yourself from the community; make it about being part of a community. Know your limits, emotionally, physically, and financially.
The work is hard, and Dana and David admit this readily. Dana is quick to add that she wouldn’t have it any other way. She likens it to doing your favorite hobbies all day long. The renovations have been a strain, though. She said that has not been the best, but being with her animals, gardening, and sharing all of this with their guests has been wonderful. She loves allowing the guests to find peace here and have a taste of farm life.
If you are interested in information about Sugar Water manor, please visit the website, https://www.sugarwatermanor.com/
Follow Dana Zucker on Instagram @momsgoodeats
Check in with Sugar Water Manor on Instagram @sugarwatermanor
JANET GARMAN is a farmer, writer, instructor, and fiber artist living in central Maryland on the family’s farm. She loves all subjects related to small farms and homesteading. Raising chickens, ducks, sheep, and fiber goats led her to write her most recent books, 50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens, (Skyhorse Publishing 2018), The Good Living Guide to Raising Sheep and Other Fiber Animals, (Skyhorse Publishing 2019), and 50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats (Skyhorse Publishing 2020).
Originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.