Homegrown Frederick’s Top Innovators: Amber Fields Malting and Brewing, District Farms, Fingerboard Farm

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The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (FCOED) collaborates annually with Frederick Magazine for Frederick County’s Top 50 publication. This year’s theme highlights the County’s most innovative businesses. Nine of our Homegrown Frederick businesses were among those honored:
Amber Fields Malting and Brewing              McClintock Distilling                                          Summer Creek Farm
District Farms                                                             Moon Valley Farm                                                The Kombucha Lady
Fingerboard Farm                                                    Rocky Point Creamery                                       Walnut Ridge Farm/Moo Cow Creamery
Within the ag and craft beverage industries, technologies are endless, and we are proud to highlight innovative businesses and bring awareness to the technologies within our Homegrown Frederick industries. Read on for our first three highlights.

Amber Fields grainAmber Fields Malting and Brewing

Known as Maryland’s original malthouse, Amber Fields Malting and Brewing located in Keymar has deep roots in Frederick County. Owned by the Clabaugh Family, the business is currently operated by the fifth and sixth generations of the family. Greg Clabaugh has spent his life committed to preserving his family’s agricultural legacy that began on their family farm in 1837. The research, development and concept of the malting business began in 2000 as a way to diversify and add greater value to the family’s commercial grain farming operation. At that time, information on grain processing and malting was not readily available, which opened a door for Amber Fields to be true innovators in the field. Knowledge was gained by reading books and developed through trial and error. In 2011, Greg’s vision became a reality when Brewer’s Alley created the first commercially sold beer exclusively made with Maryland-raised, malted and brewed barley, called Amber Fields Best Bitter. Today, Amber Fields Malting and Brewing steeps, germinates and dries 1,500 pounds of grain per week. Processing takes place in a malting tank with a computer-controlled auger that Greg designed. By adding the planting and harvesting of malting grains to the farm’s crop rotation, revenue per acre has increased, and they have been able to diversify their business to support Frederick County’s thriving craft beverage scene. Amber Field’s grains are used in the production of several local brews, as well as Tenth Ward Distilling Company’s Maryland Rye Whiskey.


District Farms lettuceDistrict Farms

District Farms in Frederick is one of the most advanced food production operations in the County and is on its way to becoming one of the largest vegetable-growing facilities in the Mid-Atlantic. Bringing a new type of farming called controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to Frederick County, the District Farms team capitalized on an opportunity. Currently, approximately 90% of all leafy greens in the United States are produced in California and Arizona. The business prioritizes sustainable agriculture practices and is committed to using innovation to build a resilient food infrastructure with a mission to push the boundaries of commercial greenhouse growing.

While nearly all commercial greenhouses built in the past decade include climate control systems, no horticulture management systems on the market currently gather plant and environmental data to provide yield projections as well as optimal climate control setting recommendations. The benefits of this innovation include increased yields due to climate control recommendations, as well as better forecasting of yields in turn leading to more efficiencies in the sales planning and mitigation of crop waste and loss.


Fingerboard FarmFingerboard Farm

Initially, Fingerboard Farm in Ijamsville opened as an agri-tourism destination. Owned by Dawn Gordon, the 25-acre farm property is home to a country inn available for rent as an event venue and can sleep 14 guests.

Upon the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, Fingerboard Farm began to research organic hemp cultivation, and in 2019 was accepted as one of the first farms into the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program at Morgan State University. All aspects of Fingerboard Farm’s hemp cultivation, harvesting and drying were self-taught in the first year of operation using familiar horticulture, vegetable and tobacco farming techniques. In year two, they were able to purchase a commercial freeze dryer, reverse osmosis system and cold-water extraction machine to produce solventless bubble hash, which was used to make Fingerboard Farm’s first barcoded product: Peppermint/Eucalyptus CBD Bath Salts. Fingerboard Farm then developed an e-commerce platform to sell various CBD products as well as other products produced on the farm. Today, they produce 10 unique health and wellness SKUs.

While the process of extracting CBD oil from plants is not a new concept, the cold water method is unique, stays true to the farm’s organic mission and aids in providing customers with a pure, chemical-free product with the highest health benefits.

The Homegrown Frederick businesses recognized as Frederick County’s Top 50 Innovative Businesses were amongst 50 dynamic companies featuring a wide variety of industries. For the full list of businesses receiving this accolade, read FCOED’s reveal blog or find the full publication here.