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She's really got 'True Grit'

AMANDA THORSVIG OF DETROIT LAKES (right) was presented with the True Grit Award by Ron Del Vecchio, head of the University of Minnesota Crookston's agriculture and natural resources department, on Jan. 28 at the 2011 UMC Ag-Arama in Crookston.

She may not have been a true farmer's daughter, but Amanda Thorsvig says she hopes her children will be.

Thorsvig, a senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, is a Detroit Lakes native whose parents, Clifford Jr. and Sheri Adkins, are the owners of Adkins Equipment.

"My family does farm, and I always had animals growing up, but it was all a hobby," she says.

She and her husband Tony, who were married this past June, are actively involved in raising their own food, albeit on a small scale.

"We live on a small farm west of Detroit Lakes, off Highway 10," Amanda says. "It's a cow-calf operation, and some forage production."

Though they both love farming, Amanda says, it's likely always going to be a part-time occupation for them: She is in the process of completing her degree in agricultural education at UMC, while Tony works for Petermann Seeds in Hawley.

Completing her degree has had its share of difficulties for Amanda, who has lived on campus at Crookston during the week and commuted home to Detroit Lakes on weekends.

Currently, she is enjoying a stint of student teaching in Hawley, which means she can spend more time with her husband.

Despite the challenges of a long distance relationship, however, Amanda has been very involved in activities at UMC, and particularly with Ag-Arama, which she describes as "a miniature county fair in the middle of the winter."

Amanda was the president of the 36th annual Ag-Arama, which took place on Jan. 28-29 at UMC.

"Ag-Arama 2011 carries on the tradition that students, faculty, alumni, community and family members all look forward to each year," she wrote in her welcoming remarks, which were included in the 2011 event program. "It serves as a celebration of all the hard work and effort of the agricultural programs."

The event is a 36-year tradition at UMC that includes competitions in agronomy, horticulture and natural resources as well as showmanship in various dairy, beef, swine, sheep and horse categories. There is also an ag industries show where Crookston-area implement dealers showcase their latest equipment.

In addition, there are various awards given, including the crowning of each year's Ag Arama Royalty -- and something called the True Grit Award.

Beginning in 1976, the award has been given annually to a UMC student who demonstrates active participation in the various activities of the college's ag department -- and encourages others to participate as well.

The award is given in memory of Todd Opsahl, a student at UMC in 1973-74, who was extremely active in campus ag activities despite the fact that he was in an advanced stage of leukemia and died from the disease shortly after graduating.

For the past two years, the winner of the award was from New York Mills; this year's True Grit Award winner hailed from Detroit Lakes.

Yes, Amanda Thorsvig was named as winner of the 2011 True Grit Award at Ag-Arama, which she said was something she truly treasured.

"It's something I've kind of always wanted to receive," she says. "The past two recipients were good friends of mine, and they got me involved with Ag-Arama."

The award also put the DL native on something of a roll, as she was named as UMC Student of the Month for January. This award is based on campus involvement and service as much as academic achievement.

"I didn't expect it," she said of the e-mail she received announcing that she was Student of the Month. "They only give it to eight students during the year."

Her success at UMC has been somewhat bittersweet, however, as Amanda recently learned that the ag education program is one that is targeted for potential elimination due to budget cuts.

"It's disheartening that they may be taking away something I'm so passionate about," she says, adding that the only other college in the state that offers a similar program is the U of M's Twin Cities campus.

Not only that, but it's coming at a time when there is a shortage of ag teachers in the state, she says.

"There are a lot of ag teachers who are at retirement (age) right now," she says, noting that if there is a shortage of qualified teachers to fill these positions, there is a strong likelihood they won't be filled at all -- i.e., that the program will be eliminated from the school's curriculum altogether.

Amanda feels that agriculture is "kind of the backbone of our country."

"A lot of people don't realize that," she added. "They're so removed from it that they think the food they eat comes from a grocery store."

A grocery store may be where they purchased the food, but it had to be produced on a farm first, she says.

"Being able to produce our own food -- to support ourselves, and other people -- is kind of a good feeling," Amanda says, even if their beef operation is on a small scale.

"It will probably always be part-time, but we both really enjoy it -- and it's how we want our kids to grow up too," she adds.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454