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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Youth Conference on Cooperative and Agribusiness Management

Farm Business Management Update, April - May 2009

By Dixie Watts Reaves (, Associate Professor, Agribusiness Management and Marketing, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

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On April 3 – 5, the Virginia Council of Farmer Cooperatives will host its annual Youth Leadership Conference at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia. Each year, between 45 and 60 youth from across Virginia are sponsored by local cooperatives to attend the fun and educational conference.

The conference begins with lunch and an icebreaker session, followed by an overview of the history and purpose of cooperatives. A number of cooperative business leaders are then on hand to introduce attendees to the wide array of products and services offered by Virginia’s cooperatives, with represented co-ops including farm supply, marketing, credit and electric cooperatives. Over the next two days of the conference, students participate in a case study competition and a business simulation, where they act as management teams making quarterly business decisions for an operating farm supply firm. Student teams compete to acquire the highest net worth, influenced by their decisions about product pricing and inventory, and personnel and debt management. In addition to the educational aspects of the conference, students participate in a casino night, outdoor recreation activities, and a dance. Participants also have opportunities to showcase their knowledge of co-ops through the completion of two written tests. At the conclusion of the conference, an awards luncheon showcases the winning case study teams and the top business simulation teams. Eight individuals are selected to receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Institute on Cooperative Education, to be held in July at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Selection is based on performance on the two tests, leadership and teamwork skills displayed during group activities, and completion of a visit to a co-op prior to attending the conference.

Students between the ages of 15 and 18 are eligible to attend the conference. Extension personnel are encouraged to help conference organizers identify deserving youth to attend the conference, which is held each spring at Graves Mountain Lodge. Additional information can be obtained from Dixie Watts Reaves (


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