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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Virginia Tech to Again Host National Cooperative Youth Conference

Farm Business Management Update, June/July 2004

By Dixie Watts Reaves

For the second consecutive year, Virginia Tech will serve as the host site for the youth component of the National Institute on Cooperative Education (NICE). The conference is set to run from August 1st through 4th, and over 100 youth from around the country are expected to participate.

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) offered NICE or its predecessor, the American Institute of Cooperation (AIC), as one of its educational conferences on cooperatives. In 2002, NCFC made the decision to streamline its educational opportunities to provide a better return on member investment of both time and money. NCFC will now utilize two national industry-wide meetings each year - the Farmer Cooperatives Convention and the Washington Conference - rather than the three to advance its cooperative education mission.

During the 2002 NICE, the last NCFC-sponsored youth event, a number of state delegations met to express interest in the continuation of the youth component of NICE. A decision was made to host the 2003 Diamond Anniversary NICE on the Virginia Tech campus and to seek to rotate the conference to different university sites in future years. This decision is actually a return to the model of the original AIC when the conference was hosted on university campuses. Since the conference in now focused solely on youth education, the return to the campus setting seems appropriate.

Evaluations of the 2003 conference indicated that it was a success, as 100 percent of participants stated that they would recommend the conference to a friend. Students enjoyed the fun learning environment that was created through the use of numerous hands-on activities. Following the 2003 NICE, themed Cooperatives: A Gem of a Deal, participants decided to return to Virginia Tech for the 2004 conference.

The conference is intended to provide a deeper understanding of cooperatives to the youth participants who are the cooperative members, customers, employees, directors, and leaders of tomorrow. Participants gain an understanding of how cooperatives differ from other business forms and hear cooperative success stories in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. In a team setting, attendees serve as managers of a simulated cooperative store, competing with other stores in their market area for sales and profit. Teams also analyze case studies, develop their own student-run cooperative, and participate in team-building and leadership development activities. The closing session recognizes the teams that have been the top performers in various conference activities.

Virginia Tech is pleased to host NICE 2004: Cultivating Tomorrow's Cooperative Leaders. With the many varied activities, numerous opportunities are available to serve as a sponsor or to provide prizes for winners of different components of the conference. Anyone interested in knowing more about the conference, or interested in assisting in any way, should contact Dixie Watts Reaves at (540) 231-6153 or

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