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Don’t Have A Cow…Save One!

Photos by Alexandra Martin

“It’s really hard and I spend all day working. My hands are bloody and I don’t get to wear pretty nails anymore, but it’s worth it.”

Dini Pederson-Opsahl and her husband Mark Opsahl hosted the grand opening of Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary on October 20. Located deep in the farm country of Underwood, Minnesota, is this microsanctuary with a mission. A micro-what? According to Anna Lake, a microsanctuary is the idea of rescuing animals on a smaller scale than larger sanctuaries.

“Usually microsanctuaries rescue farmed animals, like cows, chickens or ducks. We rescue animals that people would normally think of in a farmed setting or for food,” said Dini. “That’s where the microsanctuary movement came in, just to teach people that these animals are very similar to the cats or dogs that you can have as a companion.” Animal shelters rescuing cats and dogs are common to find in just about any American city, but it’s easy to forget about the farm animals in need. Unlike animal shelters, sanctuaries do not have the goal of rehoming animals, but rather they care for these animals until their natural death. Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary is currently home to 19 chickens, five ducks and three cows, most of which were rescued from unsavory situations.

Dini, like many of us, grew up loving animals. Growing up in the Twin Cities, being a farm girl was never in her blood…but loving animals was, “My grandmother was an animal control officer, she was actually the first woman in the United States in this position and she took in a lot of rescues, just because she just couldn’t put them down.”

Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary

A favorite animal of Dini’s had always been chickens. So when she and her husband Mark had the opportunity to move to his family farm in Underwood, this seemed the perfect time to get one as a pet for the farm. Once they had this seemingly obscure pet, she said, “As soon as I had them, it just felt kind of weird to eat chicken with how much I loved them. Just with how smart they are, they all know their names and they are just such an intelligent bird. So we went vegan and we started looking at the microsanctuary movement.”

After more time and research, Dini quit her full-time job and dedicated all her time to the hard work that goes into running the animal sanctuary. “I don’t get paid to do it, but it’s just the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said. Many animals that come into a sanctuary environment are ill or not socialized. On a daily basis, Dini works to rehabilitate ailing animals and repair the broken bonds between them and humans, teaching them how to trust again.

In August, the sanctuary acquired three cows who were surrendered to them after being rescued from a slaughter truck. These cows, Hazel, Dani and Daisy, previously lived as dairy cows and are recovering from a chronic disease that required special attention. These “Moo Girls” were previously used as dairy cows on an industrial farm, but no longer were considered profitable due to age and health conditions, so they were going to be sold for slaughter.

After establishing their goals and a good base for what they want to become, Dini and Mark were ready to show the community what they’d been working towards. October 20th’s “Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary Grand Opening” aptly took place over the Minnesota Educator Academy (MEA) conference weekend. To Dini, a big part of growing Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary was to create an awareness about farm animals. She said, “I wanted to plan this event to just tell people in the community that we are here. We also really want to support local businesses, especially ones that are willing to look at doing vegan food and getting that word out there. I want more of that around here.”

Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary

The event involved three time slots for tours of the farm, local food and goods vendors and interactive events, such as pumpkin carving, for the whole family. Amongst the number of vendors, attendees could buy an apple pie from Morris, MN based Prairie Vegan Pies or some cruelty-free home and beauty products from Kelska Blu. Everything for sale at the opening was ensured to meet the vegan or cruelty-free standards that Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary stands for. The tours of the property involved introductions to the resident animals and some background information on their pasts and what kind of lives they get to live now. On the tour, Dini spoke with an educated tongue and shared facts about the farmed animal industry, relating them back to the experience of this specific farm.

One of the additional purposes for this grand opening event was to raise funds for the further development of the farm itself. During the tours, attendees could see the parts of the property that needed renovation, including an old barn. The more they can renovate and expand, the more they can help. Dani and Mark hope that with renovations, they will be able to rescue more animals and give them more space to live freely and happily.

With more and more restaurants and food suppliers in the area providing vegan options, this movement towards an alternative thinking regarding animals is growing in our region. In Fargo alone, we’ve seen Würst Bier Hall, Twist and Granite City Food & Brewery among the many establishments around town who have recently added fully-vegan options to their daily menus. Businesses are realizing that the midwest vegan is a growing demographic and have been adapting to accommodate them. Local educational resources like Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary help bring this growing message closer to home. Because you cannot make an informed decision without the information part, resources such as this within the community are essential, no matter where you land on the dietary preference meter.

To Help

Sponsor an animal! Monthly donations greatly help keep things up and running

Shop the store! All the proceeds support the sanctuary and vegan small businesses

Anna Lake Animal Sanctuary

26329 County Highway 35, Underwood, MN

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Written by Alexandra Martin

Alexandra Martin is the editor of Fargo Monthly. She hails from Huntsville, Alabama, but graduated from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri with a degree in Fashion Communications. When she's not in the office, she is busy taking care of her small zoo of pets, cooking up vegetables, or listening to true-crime podcasts.

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