NC Choices, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in collaboration with NC Cooperative Extension, promotes sustainable food systems through the advancement of the local, niche, and pasture-based meat supply chains in North Carolina.
NC Choices uses the term “niche meat” to describe pasture-raised meats raised without routine use of antibiotics or added hormones by farmers and allied businesses who are connected to their meat products either through direct sales, wholesale, or by selling to an independent branded company.
NC Choices Program Director
Sarah Blacklin is a NC Cooperative Extension educator and Program Director at NC Choices, a program of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Sarah helps small farmers in NC maximize direct and wholesale marketing efforts to enhance profitability. She deals directly with livestock farms and local meat businesses along the entire local meat supply chain including commercial meat processors, restaurants and butcher shops, regulatory agents and various allied businesses.
Sarah’s work of extending educational programming, networking opportunities and technical training to sustainable food businesses has gained attention on the local and national scale and in 2016 Sarah was honored among the “top 100 national agricultural leaders shaping rural America” by National Farm Credit. Among other activities, Sarah serves on the board of the National Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network. Before working with meat, Sarah served as Market Manager for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for 5 years, originally getting her start as a farmhand for local farmers.
NC Choices Program Coordinator
Sheila Neal is the Project Coordinator at NC Choices where she coordinates programming, develops resources, and nurtures networking among all stakeholders in the pastured meat supply chain.
Sheila has played a role in the planning and organizing of NC Choices’ popular, nationally recognized conferences, Women Working in the Meat Business and the Carolina Meat Conference as well as our pasture-based production workshops.
Before Sheila joined the NC Choices team, she could be found busing, waiting, bartending, hosting, managing, cooking, and owning small, independently owned restaurants committed to sourcing local food.
NC Choices Technical Program Coordinator
Lee Menius, an NCSU Animal Science Graduate, has worked in the local food scene for over 20 years. He owns and operates Wild Turkey Farms in China Grove, NC – one of the Charlotte area’s longest-running small farms providing pasture raised meats direct to consumers and restaurants since its founding in 1998. Lee is actively involved in not only raising his animals (mostly Berkshire-cross pigs) to market but also plays a significant role in the processing and packaging of all of the products that they sell.
In 2016, Lee, along with his wife Domisty, opened Carolina Craft Butchery, an NCDA inspected butcher shop, in Davidson, NC. Lee has worked with Cooperative Extension, Rowan Soil & Water Conservation District, and previously as CIG Project Coordinator for NC Choices from 2007-2010 where his work has focused on educational projects and working with producers to develop effective pasture grazing systems. Throughout his career, Lee has led numerous workshops and producer trainings on topics such as business planning, processing, and outdoor swine production.