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Published October 23, 2009, 07:43 AM

Representatives tour farms

Representatives from 19 countries toured three North Dakota farms Thursday. The farm leaders, all associated with Communicating for Agriculture, were visiting farms that had served as hosts to foreign exchange workers to see the environment young people from their countries experience while working on an American farm. On the Roger Gussiaas farm north of Carrington they got a chance to see a modern farm operation and enjoy a country picnic.

By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun

CARRINGTON, N.D. — Representatives from 19 countries toured three North Dakota farms Thursday.

The farm leaders, all associated with Communicating for Agriculture, were visiting farms that had served as hosts to foreign exchange workers to see the environment young people from their countries experience while working on an American farm. On the Roger Gussiaas farm north of Carrington they got a chance to see a modern farm operation and enjoy a country picnic.

“I’ve had people from at least 10 different countries work with me on the farm,” Gussiaas said. “And I’ve traveled overseas to visit them because they’ve become lifelong friends.”

Gussiaas said it was his exposure to people from other countries that prompted his expansion into the farm product export business.

“We’re now exporting oil seeds, mostly flax, overseas,” he said. “Getting an idea of what is needed in other countries started with getting to know people in other countries.”

Workers accepted into the program must come from a farm background in their home country. They also must qualify for a visa issued by the United States embassy in their country. Most involved in the agricultural exchange program arrive in the U.S. in March or April and stay through the end of harvest in November.

But some, like Stephan Haldermann of Switzerland, use the opportunity to see some of this country.

“I arrived at the farm in April this year,” he said. “But I had drove Route 66 on a rented Harley(-Davidson motorcycle) before coming to North Dakota.”

Haldermann has been working for Troy Lura of Cathay this summer and will return to Switzerland with a couple of large souvenirs of his North Dakota farm experience.

“I helped him load in a shipping container a couple of old tractors,” Lura said. “By the time he gets back to Switzerland an old Moline and John Deere will be there.”

Haldermann said the Minneapolis Moline might be used for tractor pulls in Switzerland but didn’t have any firm plans for the John Deere Model G.

“Everything is different here,” Haldermann said. “You have no mountains, the cars are bigger, the farms are bigger and the people are bigger. It is nice to see.”

Greg Smedsrud, managing partner of Communicating for Agriculture, said the program offers great opportunities for young people.

“Our program exists to give young people the best mechanics to develop,” he said. “We’ve done about 30,000 to 40,000 exchanges over the 30 years the program has existed. Most trainees end up working for multi-national companies or working for an American company in their home land. In all cases the experience over here affects their whole life.”

More information is available at www.cafoundation.com or by calling 218-739-3241. Communicating for Agriculture is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minn., and offers exchange programs in agriculture, vineyards, greenhouses, equine management and custom harvesting. They also offer exchange programs sending American farmers to work overseas.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at

(701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at

knorman@jamestownsun.com

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