Image of Roger Gussiaas

When Roger Gussiaas began hosting J-1 Visa trainee participants in 1995, he viewed traveling abroad like “going to the moon” and never dreamed he would one day start a global export business. Today, he has hosted over 30 participants, was recently named North Dakota Exporter of the Year, and continues to impart his business knowledge and practical hands-on skills to help improve global farming practices. Learning about the rest of the world, he says, has helped him develop his business and made him more comfortable meeting people from different cultures face-to-face.
“The best [way] to establish these relationships was to visit these people in their home countries,” says Roger. “It’s different – in America you can just pick up the phone to make a contact, but people from other countries like to see a face.”
Roger’s business, Healthy Oilseeds, has benefited from several international commerce opportunities since joining the program. It has expanded into 12 different markets and a majority of sales now come from overseas– an unthinkable statistic even a decade ago. Roger believes the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program has helped his business evolve.
“It has opened my mind up,” says Roger. “We would not have started our export business, [and] we’d be less familiar with the rest of world if it wasn’t for this program. I have contacts and friends in many parts of the world. Having many contacts in the world makes me much more of a believer that we need more peace, and as a result, I am a more peaceful person.”
Helping students improve their farming techniques and gain confidence is a priority for Roger– so much so that he serves on the Communicating for Agriculture Education Programs (CAEP) board, the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program sponsor that facilitates trainee programs for his participants. On the farm, Roger looks forward to teaching his guests how to run each piece of equipment and seed one particular crop that becomes their responsibility. When they return home, Roger keeps them updated on the crop’s progress throughout the year.
“I want to teach them everything we do on the farm: the marketing side, financials, and agronomics,” explains Roger. “Participants can learn from what they did well, and what needs to be done better. We’ve grown so many different crops on our farm just to try something different after seeing what people from around the world grow. This has changed the way we farm, and we’ve added some crops to our farm based on what’ve learned.”
Treating his trainees like family and overcoming cultural obstacles together has helped Roger sustain relationships across borders. Roger believes he’s learned as much from his trainees as they have from him. He’s thankful for the opportunities the J-1 Visa program has given him, and he looks forward to welcoming and inspiring a new crop of participants soon.
“I welcome anyone from all over the world,” says Roger. “I feel like I get to be an ambassador for my state and country because the participants go back and they will speak well of the state and our nation to their families and home communities. “When we develop a good friend from another country, they are ambassadors for our country as well.”