Five-spice Pork Shoulder Recipe

For our open house this fall, I prepared a five-spice pork shoulder that was a big hit. The recipe was requested and I thought more people might be interested so I am posting it here.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine.

The best thing about this recipe is how it makes the house smell. The fragrant spices are perfect for fall. Because we’re sort of busy around the farm, I adapt most recipes for the crockpot. Pork shoulder, especially, cooks well in the crock pot and eventually falls apart. If you prefer a more elegant presentation where you’d slice the pork, I recommend the original recipe. Our version produces more of a shredded meat that is delicious when served over Jasmine rice with the au jus spooned over top.

Monnett Farms Five-spice Pork Shoulder

Monnett Farms Pork Shoulder Recipe


Dry Ingredients & Spices
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp grated orange zest

Pork shoulder – Our pork shoulders generally range from 2 to 4lbs and have the bone-in. You will want to thaw the meat, in a refrigerator (takes about 24 hours) and then bring it to room temperature before you start to cook it.

Liquid Ingredients
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup liquid – I usually use apple cider or apple juice. You can also use brandy (as the Food & Wine recipe recommends), chicken broth or even water.

Serving Suggestion
Steamed Jasmine rice

The thing about using a slow cooker is that you basically just get to throw everything together in one pot. There is no specific order to put the ingredients in, but this is generally my order…

1. Combine dry ingredients and rub onto pork shoulder (see note above – meat should be thawed and brought to room temperature first). Place the spice rubbed pork shoulder into the crockpot.

2. Pour liquids into crockpot, pouring some over the meat.

3. Turn crockpot to low and cook for 6 to 8 hours. Occasionally spoon the liquid over meat to keep it moist.

That’s basically it. The meat will most likely start to fall off the bone, at which point you can shred it and serve over rice or, you can remove the entire roast and serve it on a platter.

Open House November 8, 2015

Please Join Us!

Monnett Farms Fall Open House
Sunday, November 8, 2015 from 1pm to 3pm

Come see the farm, hop on a wagon ride and take a guided tour. We’ll have light food and drinks for you to enjoy.

There’s plenty of parking. Dress for the weather. Event will be held in an old tobacco barn.

Some Basic Rules…
Kids are welcome, there is minimal walking and strollers are welcome. Parents must accompany children on the hayride. Because of our farm animals, we cannot accommodate dogs – we apologize.

How to Get Here
Monnett Farms is located off Rt. 231 in Prince Frederick, Calvert County.
4825 Dennis Monnett Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
Google maps will give you accurate directions.

From Route 4
Turn West onto Rt. 231. Pass Spider Hall Farms and take a left onto Adelina Road.
Follow Adelina Road for approximately 3 to 4 miles (you’ll cross over Sixes Road and pass a white church).
Turn left onto Dennis Monnett Road.
Follow Dennis Monnett Road to the very end and straight past the first barn. Parking in the field beyond the second barn.

From the Benedict Bridge
Turn right onto Sixes Road (first light after bridge, across from the Industrial Park).
Turn right onto Adelina Road (second stop sign).
Turn left onto Dennis Monnett Road (just past white church).
Follow Dennis Monnett Road to the very end and straight past the first barn. Parking in the field beyond the second barn.

As an alternative (less winding path), you can turn right onto Adelina Road (just up the hill and past Hallowing Point Park) and follow directions “From Route 4″.


Please let us know if you can make it! Email

Monnett Farms Featured at Governor Hogan’s Buy Local Cookout

We were thrilled to be included on the menu at the Governor’s Annual Buy Local Cookout. Chef Mike Archibald of Herrington on the Bay Catering in Anne Arundel county submitted a recipe for London Broil with Corn, Onion and Pepper Relish. Beef for the recipe was sourced from our farm as well as Progressive Farm in Anne Arundel County. The corn, onion and peppers were sourced from Swann Farms in Calvert County.

Jamie & Benson Tiralla
Jamie & Benson Tiralla at the Buy Local Cookout

Herrington on the Bay Catering
Herrington on the Bay Catering had a winning recipe for the 2015 Buy Local Cookout – Owner Anna Chaney & Chef Mike Archibald

Chef Mike’s recipe is featured below as well as a link to the Governor’s 2015 Buy Local Cookbook

London Broil with Corn, Onion & Pepper Relish

Recipe by Mike Archibald of Herrington on the Bay Catering
Featured at Maryland Governor Hogan’s 2015 Buy Local Cookout

London Broil Recipe from 2015 Governor's Buy Local Cookout

Monnett Farms Named CSCD Cooperator of the Year

We are excited to announce that Monnett Farms has been named Cooperator of the Year for 2014 by the Calvert Soil Conservation District. We received the award at the organization’s annual banquet on Thursday, March 12th.

Monnett Farms Named CSCD 2014 Cooperator of the Year

Benson and I have been cooperators of the Calvert Soil Conservation District (CSCD) since 2011. Benson’s parents, Joseph & Marilyn Tiralla have been members since 1987. Benson’s grandfather, Dennis Monnett Jr. was also a cooperator and served as treasurer for the CSCD from 1960 to 1963. Dennis Monnett Jr. was named Cooperator of the Year in 1965.

Monnett Farms Conservation Practices

Since 2007, we have adopted many best management practices – or BMPs. With help from the CSCD, we have fenced in about 30 acres of pasture to keep animals out of streams and sensitive areas. We have also installed automatic waterers, which sit on concrete pads called heavy use areas – that help to prevent watering stations from becoming muddy and control erosion.

We have also replanted some pastures and renovated others by overseeding with clover to assist with our rotational grazing program.

This spring, we will be installing gutters on the barn to control roof run off and subsequent soil erosion.

Fences and gates at Monnett Farms helps us manage a rotational grazing system for cattle, goats and sheep.

Monnett Farms Fence and Gate System

Monnett Farms Fencing System

Frost-free hydrants give animals year round, free choice access to water. Concrete pads around the hydrants help control these heavy use areas.

Monnett Farms Water Hydrants and Heavy Use Areas

What is a Soil Conservation District?

The first soil conservation districts were formed in response to desperate conditions caused by the dust bowl. In 1935, Congress declared soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Three-quarters of the land in the United States was privately owned, and so it was realized that only through active and voluntary support from landowners could Congress guarantee the success of conservation on private land.

The Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts (MASCD) was organized on March 29, 1945. The Calvert Soil Conservation District officially organized on June 10, 1948. Today there are nearly 3,000 conservation districts – one in almost every county in all 50 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In Maryland, there are 24 soil conservation districts.

A soil conservation district is made up of landowners and farmers called cooperators. These members join together voluntarily in planning for and controlling soil erosion, sedimentation, and flooding; as well as managing animal wastes, fertilizers, and agricultural chemicals to protect farmland and water quality.

The CSCD provides technical assistance to landowners with installing best management practices as well as cost-share programs. CSCD also has an equipment rental program for farmers and landowners. Learn more about the Calvert Soil Conservation District at

Does Buying Local Make Me Look Cool?

I came across an interesting story today on NPR’s The Salt titled If Apple Made iMilk And Nike Sold Fruit: Designer Groceries As Art. It’s about an art project that explores how packaging manipulates perception. And while it is a well written piece and I think it opens up an important discussion, I have a few issues with the message it sends.

Photo: “Eggs by Versace” by designer Peddy Mergui from his exhibit “Wheat is Wheat is Wheat,” on display at Expo Milano 2015 in May. via The Salt.

Towards the end of the article, the author writes, “And yet, the uncomfortable truth of modern food shopping is that there is a booming market of luxury foods. And while they may not have designer labels, they are certainly steeped with a set of values. Why else would you pay $7 for a half-gallon glass bottle of local, grass-fed milk? Consumers aren’t just paying for the taste, but the lifestyle and values it embodies.”

I’m sorry – but really, this is a gross over simplification of why people make certain food choices.

Paying $7 for milk – or in the case of our farm $4 for a dozen eggs or $7 for a pound of grass fed beef represents the cost of production and the cost for us to bring those products to the market.

People buy things for all sorts of reasons – and in some cases it may be that you buy our grass fed beef because of the values it embodies. But there are many other reasons beyond that. When you buy from a local family farm like ours, you’re making an investment in your local community. And plenty of people enjoy the fact that they can establish a direct relationship with the people who are growing their food.

Local foods aren’t artificially more expensive. We don’t make up prices for our products because they have our label on them – and to my knowledge no other farmers do either.

A better question might be why is a half gallon of milk only $3 at the grocery store.

Industrial agriculture is afforded some benefits in that they are able to consolidate production, processing and transportation and pass those savings along. In some cases, they also qualify for certain benefits and incentives that help stabilize market prices and keep food affordable.

Food isn’t like luxury goods. There may be a teeny tiny segment of the market trying to capitalize on the food movement – but by and large, I see very little evidence that farmers are promoting a “cool factor” to get people to pay more than they should be.

On our farm, we come up with the price for any given product after we do a little math. What costs went in: feed, butchering, transportation, care, infrastructure (like fencing or waterers for example). We take a look at what the market prices are to make sure that we’re not totally off the map – we want people to buy our food, after all. And then there’s time. This is a business – Benson’s job. We have to earn income to support our family. The price you see on our meat and eggs is the result of all of those factors.

I read another great story last night that is a good complement to the Salt’s piece. In The $18.00 Chicken, a Michigan farmer eloquently explains the struggle that some small-scale farmers have when pricing product.

Benson and I appreciate the tremendous amount of support and dedication that each and everyone of our customers has shown us. It wouldn’t be possible – or worth it – to do it with out you. Southern Maryland’s agricultural industry is gaining significant steam and all the farmers I know are thrilled to be a part of this movement.

Hope you all stay warm – today was a shock for the system after the beautiful weekend we had. Can’t wait to see you all again in May.

The Technicolor Egg Box

Before I met Benson, I might have been on the verge of becoming a crazy cat lady. I only had one cat … but that’s a slippery slope to be on. He’s doing his best now to keep me from becoming a crazy chicken lady. My favorite chickens are the ones with the feathery poofs on top of their heads. I had one for a short while (that’s a whole different story). Benson’s more practical, though. He prefers production over beauty. And being that we’re trying to run a business here, I understand his point. So, we compromise. I can’t have the fancy chickens – so I settle for chickens that lay colored eggs. It makes me happy to hand over a box of our eggs at the farmers market and get a smile when someone sees white, brown and blue eggs in the box. And it’s a great conversation starter.

Monnett Farms chickens produce white, brown and blue colored eggs.

So, today, I thought I’d share some fun facts about chickens (and eggs)…

Do You Need a Rooster to Get Eggs?
No. A hen will lay eggs without a rooster.

When does a chicken start laying eggs?
Typically, it takes about 6 months for a juvenile hen (called a pullet) to start laying eggs.

How many eggs will a chicken lay in a week?
That depends on the breed…and the time of year…and the condition of the hen…

It takes a hen 26 hours to produce an egg. So, the most you can get is really about 6 a week. We select breeds that lay between 4 and 6 eggs a week. In the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, egg production typically goes down. Younger hens (1 to 2 years old) will generally produce more eggs than older hens (3 years and older).

What makes eggs different colors?
I wrote about this last year on the blog – it was a lot of fun to research. Definitely check out the long answer, but in short – hens release a pigment (called porphyrin) that influences the color of the shell. Different breeds of chicken release different pigments. On our farm, we keep Leghorns, which lay white eggs, Rhode Island Reds, which lay brown eggs, and Americanas (Easter Eggers), which lay a blue-green egg.

Is there any difference between a brown or a white egg?
No. The color of the egg shell makes no difference in terms of the actual egg itself. They all are basically the same inside. What has a greater influence on the egg is the actual health/condition/diet of the hen herself. Chickens that are healthy with access to pasture will tend to produce eggs that have a more intensely colored yolk.

Why do your eggs have such a bright colored yolk?
Our chickens spend a lot of time outdoors eating grass, bugs and whatever else they find. It’s their diet, rich in carotenoids, that produces the bright orange yolks.

What does free range mean?
On our farm it means free range – they go wherever they want, including on our back deck to eat out of the dog bowl. I’ve even caught a chicken in the house after I left the back door open. But there isn’t a standard definition for what free range means. My advice is to try and buy your eggs from a local farmers market or farm stand and ask what it means to that supplier.

Monnett Farms Eggs

A Christmas Poem by Baxter Black

I heard this poem on NPR’s Tinsel Tales 3 and it was too good not to share. You can listen to that complete episode at or visit to see more of his poems and stories. Merry Christmas to you all.

Christmas Cows

What’s Christmas to a Cow

by Baxter Black

I know you’ve prob’ly asked yourself,
What’s Christmas to a Cow?
You’ve not! Well maybe, just perchance
I’ve got you thinkin’ now.

When we march out on Christmas morn
like nothin’s goin’ on,
Has Yuletide struck the night before
and disappeared by dawn?

Were plastic sleeves a’hangin’ up
around the calvin’ shed?
Did visions of molasses blocks
cavort inside her head?

And did she lake awake at night
tensed up, anticipating
Or, in excitement milk her bed
by accident, while waiting?

Do cows just pretend to be just cows,
devoid of all intrigues
But really lead a secret life
like women’s bowling leagues?

Did we just miss the mistletoe?
Did all the clues elude us?
Does she believe in Santa Clause
or just Santa Gertrudis?

And if we look, would we see sign of
reindeer in the pen?
Or would we just convince ourselves,
the goat got out again?

And after we’d all gone to bed,
would they join in a hymn
and sing that little manger song
they learned in Bethlehem?

I guess that it don’t matter much
if cows believe or not.
We’ll fork her out a flake ‘a hay
and head back in a trot

to celebrate our Christmas day
with all that we espoused
and when we say our dinner grace,
we’ll thank Him for the cows.

For the livelihood they give us
and the life we get to share.
But do cows have Christmas cheer?
Who knows, but just beware,

If you see chicken tracks among
the straw and drying chips,
you better check suspicious cows
for eggnog on their lips.

Markets Closed For Winter

It’s obvious that winter is upon us. We see Christmas decorations up everywhere – the air is much cooler…and the farmers markets in the area are mostly closed for winter.

We’re thankful for all the support you showed us this year. The only thing that could have been better was if we had more meat to sell you! This winter, we’re busy breeding animals and catching up on repairs to the barns and equipment. Last weekend, Benson and I went to Virginia to buy a few more sheep for our flock and we’ll have a few new cows on the farm this month as well.

We will have some pasture raised pork available in February – if you’d like to be notified, we suggest you sign up for our newsletter. The hens are still laying eggs, though not as many, now that the days are shorter and the air is cool. If you’re interested in buying eggs, please contact us to arrange a time to pick them up direct from the farm.

If you’re fixing for local meats and produce, don’t forget about all the wonderful farm stands in the area that carry local meats. Our favorites in Calvert County are:

If you need help finding something special, please don’t hesitate to give us a call, send us an email or message us through Facebook. We have lots of friends who farm and would love to share their information with you.

Extended Farmers Market Season

Great news everyone! Both of the farmers markets that we participate in will be open through November. Our attendance will be dependent on the availability of our meats. But, we’ll be there until we sell out. This fall, we have Pasture Raised Pork and Grass Fed Lamb, as well as Free Range Eggs.

Our Farmers Markets

You can find Monnett Farms at two farmers markets:

Solomons Farmers Market
Thursdays 4pm to dark (usually we’re there until 7pm)
Last market date: 11/20/2014

California (BAE) Farmers Market
Saturdays 9am to 1pm
Last market date: 11/29/2014

Visit for pricing and availability.

Reflections on Raising Meat

Monnett Farms

It’s with some hesitation that I write this post. The ultimate fate of our animals is something that we try not to focus on. Most people would prefer to eat their meat without thinking about the fact that it came from a once living animal. It’s much easier that way.

Today is a day of reflection. Our first lambs are being taken down to the butcher. While we’re so excited to add lamb to our list of products and so proud of the work we’re doing, I would be lying if I said it was easy. There’s a twinge of sadness that I’m not ashamed to share. I think it’s important to know how much Benson and I care about the animals we raise and appreciate the responsibility we have of being stewards of God’s land and creatures.

We are often asked “how can you do it?”. It’s not easy – but I’ve gotten to the point now, where it seems more difficult to buy meat at the store not knowing where it came from – and I don’t just mean geographically. I mean knowing how it was raised, what it was fed, how it was cared for and how it ultimately died.

I think the more important question to ask is why Benson and I farm. Here are just a few of the reasons:

1. To provide people with a choice.
Most people eat meat. Some choose to be vegetarian, vegan, etc. and I think that’s a fine choice. But for those people who do eat meat, they deserve to have a choice. Buying our meat means that you’re supporting a local family farm that raises animals on pasture in an ethical and environmentally sustainable way.

2. To know where our food is coming from.
When we started farming about 7 years ago, it was mostly to feed our own family. Raising our own meat meant that we could be deeply connected to the food we were eating and that there was no question about where it came from, how it was raised and how it lived its life. We took the time (and still do) to know the people who butcher our meat to ensure that from the day the animal was born until its final moments, it was well cared for. The butcher we use now, Faquier’s Finest Meat Processing, is a USDA-inspected, Animal Welfare Approved butcher. We have developed a personal relationship with this company and work cooperatively with them to ensure that our meat is of the highest quality.

3. To connect to our roots.
Benson’s family has been in Calvert County since the late 1700s. In some ways, what we do is about carrying on a legacy – preserving a piece of land for our own children, Benson’s brother’s children and hopefully our future great-great-grandchildren. Not many people have the opportunity (or desire) to farm. We feel blessed to preserve agriculture in Southern Maryland and share our experience with so many wonderful and supportive people.

4. To nourish our soul.
Farming is difficult and profound work. We have deepened our connection to God, who gave man dominion over the land, sea and animals. Religion aside, there’s also a deep sense of connection that we have towards the earth and health of our planet. Farming has made us more aware of ways we can improve to keep ourselves and our planet healthier. Benson and I debate almost everyday about different types of farming – being a part of the local farming community has opened our eyes to the need for diversity. We’re proud of the space we fill in this community.

We Are a Grass-Based Farm

The health of our pasture – from the soil to the grass is of the utmost importance. Without healthy pasture, we can’t produce healthy meat. We carefully select animals that will thrive on a pasture based management system. In some cases, as with our sheep, they are rare breeds that face extinction without good stewards to continue their breed. Our cows, sheep and goats are exclusively grass fed. They are born and raised on our farm, loved from the day they are born. Our pigs come from a local farm, bred and raised by farmers we deeply admire. We get them as piglets and raise them on pasture and wooded areas, supplementing with locally sourced feed (St. Mary’s County).

It doesn’t happen often – but it’s harder to deal with a sick animal than one that’s going to the butcher. When an animal dies from sickness, there is an indescribable feeling of loss. We analyze these situations from all sides to understand how we can improve and what we could do differently to prevent similar situations from happening again.

Raising an animal to its full potential is very rewarding. We’re so proud of the quality of meat we produce and appreciate all the positive feedback we’ve gotten. We stand face to face with our customers every week, holding ourselves accountable for the products we sell. And we go to bed every night thankful for the opportunity we have.

Meat is a precious resource. We should all think a little harder about where our food comes from and to support those who work tirelessly to raise it.

The Calvert County Fair is this week – be sure to stop in the Ag Building to learn about Calvert’s farming heritage and to visit the 4-Hers who proudly show their animals and other projects at the fair each year. The future is bright for young farmers.

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