SDSU contingent in China includes four from area


By Gina Thorstenson

A visit to the Forbidden City was among the many stops made by Gina Thorstenson of Selby as she joined an SDSU agricultural travel class on a recent trip to China.

A visit to the Forbidden City was among the many stops made by Gina Thorstenson of Selby as she joined an SDSU agricultural travel class on a recent trip to China.

Four area South Dakota State University students including Gina Thorstenson, Selby, Jenna Brandt, Bowdle, Sam Jensen, Mobridge, and Kelsey Ducheneaux, Timber Lake, were part of a group of 31 SDSU students who recently spent two weeks in China to learn about agriculture, culture and the relations China has with the United States. Accompanying the group were four professors and Barry Dunn, SDSU Dean of the College of Ag and Bio.
Throughout the trip everyone learned about the many differences between China and the U.S.  For one, there are a lot of people in China, so high-rise apartment buildings became a common sight as the entourage navigated through many different cities. There were also many bikes, scooters, and mopeds as that is a very common mode of transportation.
Meals are also very different from the U.S.  “We all definitely became much better at using chopsticks by the time we came home,” Thorstenson said.
Chinese meals always started out with rice and a few dishes of meat and vegetables on the center of the table which would spin around like a lazy Susan. The servers would then bring out more dishes as the meal went on, and when they brought out the watermelon we knew that was the end of the meal.  The Chinese do not really eat desserts; they end their meals with fruit.
The plates and cups were always very small as the Chinese don’t use dinner plates like Americans.  “They just spin the lazy Susan and pick food off with their chopsticks and eat it,” Thorstenson added. “That kind of grossed me out to start with. Lots of germ sharing.”
After a 12-hour flight from San Francisco, Calif., the group landed in Beijing and began their journey by joining Governor Dennis Daugaard and his delegation at a reception with a group of Chinese agricultural officials.
The next five days were spent in Beijing and while there the students visited the China Pioneer (seed corn) headquarters to learn about farming practices in China. Everything is on a much smaller scale than the U.S. with the average farm size less than two acres. A four row planter would be considered huge in China.  Some major crops grown on these farms include rice, corn, wheat, peanuts, and barley. Fruits such as cherries, bananas, watermelon, and leachy nuts are also among crops grown in China.
While in Beijing the students also visited a high-end equestrian training facility, the Silk Market, Femur Head Hospital, the Great Wall, MAFIC or China Ag University, a John Deere engine factory, a soybean crushing plant, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, a tea house, silk factory, and the Pearl Market and rode rickshaws to a local family’s home. “We quickly learned that nothing has a set price when shopping and by the end of the trip some become quite excellent at bargaining,” Thorstenson said.
From Beijing, the group took a high-speed train that went approximately 190 mph to Xi’an, where they toured a feedlot, a beef breeding center, a dairy, a dairy processing plant, and a hog production and processing facility.  They also rode tandem bikes around the Xi’an city wall, had dumplings and watched a traditional Chinese dance show. Other stops included the meat market, a local family farm, and the Terracotta Warriors.
From Xi’an they flew south to Guangzhou to visit the Nansha Port, a fish market, fruit and vegetable market, the U.S. Consulate, and a fish farm.
“After visiting the meat market in Xi’an and then the fish market in Guangzhou, I became very thankful for the food safety regulations we have in the U.S.,” said Thorstenson. “At the markets, there is no concern for the meat safety, quality, or the number of germs as the fresh meat hangs out in the sun all day as the locals bargain for a good price. The later it is in the day, the cheaper the price.”
The group then took a bus from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Hong Kong and China are considered one country, but two separate systems. Because of that, Hong Kong is different from the rest of China.  There is a British influence in Hong Kong, so they drive on the left side of the road and the city itself is much more westernized.
While in Hong Kong the group saw the Hong Kong Harbor, Ocean Park, Hong Kong Jockey Club—which consisted of a race horse museum and race track– and the Peak Tower to look at all of the lights and high-rise buildings in Hong Kong at night.
“This trip was a once in a lifetime experience where I was able to build lifetime friendships, embrace a different culture, and learn about the agriculture abroad,” Thorstenson said.
For more detailed information about the trip, a daily blog and more pictures, check out
Gina Thorstenson is a senior agricultural business major at SDSU and is working for Lazy TV Ranch, Selby, for the summer. Sam Jensen, a native of Hancock, Minn., is a senior animal science major who has spent the last several summers in the area working for PIC, Mound City. Jenna Brandt is also a senior animal science major working for PIC this summer. Kelsey Ducheneaux is a senior range science major who is employed at Bob’s Steakhouse at Gettysburg as well as being an independent consultant for Rodan & Fields and running her own beadwork business, DX Designs.

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