With more than 1,400 farms spread out over 200,000 acres, Frederick County, Maryland is at the heart of the D.C. area’s thriving agricultural scene. Its close proximity to Washington gives day-trippers the opportunity to experience the farm-focused culture for themselves.
So fill up the car and hit the road… the winding back roads and fresh county air of Frederick County await.
Frederick County, MD: An Agritourism Road Trip
Catoctin Mountain Orchard (15036 N. Franklinville Road, Thurmont – 301-271-2737)
The family-run Catoctin Mountain Orchard has been selling their local produce to the public via a bustling roadside market since the 1930s. Open 7 days a week from May 1st through December, the market features seasonal fruit, vegetables, preserves and baked goods, including the standout apple dumplings. Co-owners Robert and Patricia Black utilize responsible farming techniques like trickle irrigation and integrated pest management to reduce their use of water, pesticides and power throughout the scenic 100 acre farm.
Springfield Manor Winery, Distillery & Lavender Field (11836 Auburn Road, Thurmont – 301-271-0099)
Catoctin Furnace-owner James Johnson’s historic estate in the shadow of the Catoctin Mountains is the magnificent setting for Springfield Manor, Thurmont’s newest winery, distillery, lavender field and bed and breakfast. A meticulously-restored historic dairy barn dating back to the early 1900s serves as the tasting room for this family-owned and -operated farm winery. Bouquets of dried lavender adorn the walls, creating a lightly fragrant ambiance throughout. The distillery opened late fall 2014, and features fruit brandies and a lavender gin.
Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm (8253 Dollyhyde Road, Mt. Airy – 301-829-6950)
Located along the rural back roads between Mt. Airy, New Market and Libertytown lies Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm. Open since 2013, Maryland’s first farm brewery creates hop-focused beers brewed with cascade hops and other ingredients grown on the neighboring Stillpoint Farm. Enjoy a crisp pint on the brewery’s scenic patio while picnicking on local cheeses and meats available for purchase on site.
England Acres Farm Market (5620 Detrick Road, Mt. Airy – 240-674-2028)
With grain-filled silos and idyllic rolling hills of green and wheat-colored farmland, a visit to the England Acres Farm Market provides a glimpse at a quintessential working Frederick farm. Driven by a passion for connecting people with their food, owners Jeff and Judy England have curated a weekend market filled with local farm fresh products including produce, meat and dairy items. Market visitors are also encouraged to walk around and experience their farm. Be sure to pick up a bag of chicken feed ($.50 a bag) before heading out to find some of the happiest chickens around, which are all too eager to flock to your side in hopes of snagging a morsel.
Green Meadows Petting Farm (10102 Fingerboard Road, Ijamsville – 301-865-9203. Admission is $12 per person over 23 months old)
Open since 2005, the family-run Green Meadows Petting Farm is perfect for pint-sized travelers, providing a kid-themed introduction to farms as well as lots of open space to run around. Kids of all ages are encouraged to get up close with a variety of friendly farm animals. Open seasonally, visitors are able to milk a cow, hold a baby goat or piglet, brush a donkey, take a hay ride and talk with the helpful staff on hand to instruct and enlighten.
South Mountain Creamery (8305 Bolivar Road, Middletown – 301-371-8565)
All of this Frederick Country farmland is home to over 100 dairy farms and over 14,000 milk cows. Located 20 minutes outside of downtown Frederick, South Mountain Creamery’s one of the most popular dairy farms in the area, with fresh ice cream made on site and a store with fresh eggs, butter, milk and other products for purchase. Try to plan your visit to arrive around 3:45 p.m. so you can participate in the popular daily 4 p.m. calf-feeding. Pick your favorite calf, grab a bottle of milk and be prepared for an adorable, exciting experience that gives new meaning to the term “feeding frenzy.”
Distillery Lane Ciderworks (5533 Gapland Road, Jefferson – 301-834-8920)
In addition to the many wineries and its growing list of craft breweries, Frederick County is also home to another spirit: hard cider. Opening in 2010, Distillery Lane Ciderworks was Maryland’s first licensed cidery and today cidermaker Tim Rose creates over ten varieties of cider exclusively using the apples grown on the company’s own 10-acre orchard. Stop by for a $5 tasting to try four 1-ounce pours of their current ciders. Sweet or tart, sparking or still — a stop here is sure to open your eyes to the diverse offerings of local hard cider.
Sugarloaf Alpaca Company (1347 Buckeystown Pike, Adamstown – 240-500-0007)
Everyone loves alpacas! Their super soft fur, soft humming sounds and gentle demeanor melts the hearts of children and adults alike. While it’s rare to have the opportunity to see them up close, the Sugarloaf Alpaca Company’s full-scale pasture-to-product farm has around 150 of these lovable creatures for your viewing and photo-taking pleasure. Open year round, the farm is also home to a spinning mill and a small shop with hand-spun alpaca-yarn items for purchase.
End your day of farm hopping by heading into Frederick’s charming historic district for some window-shopping and delicious farm-to-table eats.
In recent years, Frederick has undergone a culinary transformation, thanks in part to the celebrity-chef status of VOLT mastermind Bryan Voltaggio. But Frederick’s foodie scene offers way more than just one amazing restaurant. Track the farm-to-table movement at restaurants that feature locally-sourced ingredients like the Wine Kitchen on the Creek, Cafe Nola, or Firestone’s Culinary Tavern. But be sure to think ahead! Tables in downtown Frederick book up fast, so be sure to make a reservation in advance.