Louisiana Youths Learn About Co-op Business

Sanford B. Dooley, Chaney, John A., Jenkins , Rusty, Stockwell, Sandy, Hyde, Leo  |  4/19/2005 10:29:13 PM

News Release Distributed 5/05/04

POLLOCK – Young people from across Louisiana recently learned what it takes to operate a cooperative business.

The learning experience came during the Louisiana Co-op Youth Leadership Conference late last month at the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center near Pollock.

As part of the April 23-25 conference, more than 90 participants had an opportunity to share ideas and invest money to form and operate a cooperative business named "Snack Daddy’s Co-op." It was all part of an experience that was designed to help them learn by actually doing.

"These young leaders developed a business plan, recruited investors and ran a small business using the rules and principles of cooperatives," said LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Sandy Dooley.

The three-day program provided an opportunity for high school students of varying backgrounds and interest to become more familiar with the American cooperative business system.

"Cooperating and working together helps communities, especially in the rural areas, prosper," said Dooley. "And business leaders from the state provided the leadership to show the young people at this camp how community problems can sometimes be solved by forming a cooperative."

The conference offered practical hands-on learning experiences in addition to leadership opportunities. It also was intended to foster an open exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of fun through recreation, motivation and fellowship.

Business leaders from the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives explained the operation of the different types of cooperatives and their importance to providing a service in the state.

Leo Hyde of Louisiana Ag Credit and Rusty Jenkins of the Louisiana Land Bank conducted an informal session on banking cooperatives and explained the importance of maintaining a good credit rating and taking steps to prevent identity theft.

"Be sure to protect your private information such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other financial information from theft," said Hyde. "Security theft is a big problem and can damage an individual’s credit and reputation."

Participants were encouraged to pay their bills on time, avoid excessive use of credit cards and be careful with falling victim to sales incentives or gimmicks.

"Remember bad credit, bankruptcy and poor financial records remain on your credit report for seven years," said Hyde, adding, "A bad credit rating can affect your ability to buy a car or home."

In addition to those activities, the participants were divided among 12 groups to do case studies and present their recommendations to the entire conference delegation. The case studies were different for each group and included topics about employee management, termination, safety, insurance and a number of other business problems cooperatives face.

"These case studies encourage young people to discuss business problems, develop solutions and present the results to the group," said Dooley, adding, "Thus, they enhance the participants’ communication, decision-making and leadership skills."

This conference is unique because it includes three different youth educational groups in the state.

"This is the only camp I know of where youth and adult leaders are recruited from three educational organizations to work on business skills," said Sandy Stockwell, president of the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives, explaining that participants come from 4-H Clubs, FFA chapters and FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) members.

One of the key components of the camp was the actual formation and operation of a cooperative business by the campers.

Delegates held an organizational meeting, collected a membership fee from members, elected a board of directors, hired a manager, and then opened and ran the "Snack Daddy’s Co-op" by selling candy and chips to members.

On the last morning of the conference, the "Snack Daddy’s Co-op" held a membership meeting to assess the performance of the co-op and to distribute patronage refunds to the members based on their use of the co-op.

"I like the conference because it gives me an opportunity to run a business, and I can meet teens from other organizations," said Dawn Jason, a 4-H member from West Baton Rouge Parish, while she worked in the "Snack Daddy’s Co-op."

Julie Baker, a graduate assistant in the LSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, assisted the younger delegates in the organization and operation of the "Snack Daddy’s Co-op."

"Cooperatives are important in developing and maintaining the economic stability in rural communities," said Dooley, "Now more young people are educated about the importance of cooperatives."

The co-op conference is sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

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Contacts:  Sandy Dooley at (225) 578-2266 or sdooley@agcenter.lsu.edu 
                Rusty Jenkins at (225) 749-3522 or 
                rusty.jenkins@farmcreditbank.com 
                Sandy Stockwell at (800) 355-3450 or laec@demco.net 
                Leo Hyde at (318) 263-2082 or lhyde@farmcreditbank.com
Writer:      John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu

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