At 664 square miles, Frederick is Maryland's largest county. Although it borders on such high-growth areas as Montgomery, Howard and Carroll counties, an estimated 85 percent of Frederick County's surface is still open space, acreage largely zoned for agricultural use. But as growth pressures increase, traditional farming is rapidly shrinking.
According to new U.S. Census data, the number of Frederick residents living on farms dropped from 4,112 in 1980 to 2,950 in 1990. This 28.25 percent decrease exceeded both Maryland's statewide drop in farm residents and the nationwide decrease. Meanwhile, the county's population zoomed from 84,927 to 149,550 in 1990. It is expected to increase another 34 percent by the year 2000.
These trends have become strikingly visible in recent years as new housing developments have mushroomed in previously rural areas, and Frederick County has become more tightly linked to the Washington metropolitan area. Urbanization has been particularly noticeable in the Interstate 270 corridor, the increasingly congested thoroughfare that connects Frederick City with Germantown, Rockville and Washington.