Brandy Orlando | 4/30/2015 2:00:35 AM
News Release Distributed 04/29/15
POLLOCK, La. – Louisiana 4-H’ers received a real-world entrepreneurial experience while attending the 2015 Co-op Leadership Conference at Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center April 24-26.
The LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives sponsored the conference, which was attended by 40 4-H’ers in grades eight-12 representing parishes across the state.
“The conference builds knowledge of the American cooperative business system and gives students a real-world entrepreneurial experience,” said Lenny Waguespack, vice president of the Louisiana Division of First South Farm Credit.
“Co-op is a unique camp,” said Waguespack, who was also conference co-chairman. “It allows students to explore the world of cooperatives and how this form of business complements and benefits the citizens of Louisiana.”
Participants get a chance to run their own co-op and learn the principles of business and operations, so in the future they could become co-op managers and directors, Waguespack said.
The conference is a prime opportunity for young people to get away from electronic devices and engage with other teen leaders and business professionals, said Billy Gibson, president of the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
“Kids are getting lost in cyberspace,” said Gibson, who also serves as a conference co-chairman.
Throughout the weekend, students rotated through sessions taught by co-op business leaders focusing on different types of cooperatives – financial, marketing, service and credit.
In addition to learning about cooperative business, the students enhance their decision making, leadership and communication skills thorough hands-on learning and teamwork challenges, said Terri Crawford, AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator.
A new session at the conference this year was Can You Market and Sell Yourself?
“We want to teach the participants how to market themselves and have success when interviewing, which goes hand-in-hand with the award interview portion of camp,” Waguespack said.
AgCenter economist Wes Harrison kicked off the conference with a detailed description of a co-op, the principles of cooperative business and who makes it work.
As part of the activities, 4-H’ers put their knowledge into practice by picking a board of directors and general manager to run their cooperative. They also sold stock in the cooperative to increase membership, developed business and marketing plans, and managed the co-op.
This year’s co-op, called Snack Chat, sold a variety of snacks, which gave participants the experience of determining prices, sales, marketing the co-op and developing other strategies involved in operating the business.
In the end, the students’ efforts were regarded as a success because the business made enough profit to pay its original loan and pay dividends to its stockholders, said Crawford.
In addition to operating a co-op, participants went through an interview component that tests their knowledge of cooperative business and how actively they participated in the conference. Sixteen 4-H’ers were nominated by their peers to take part in the panel interview.
The top two candidates won a 4-H Educational Trip to San Antonio sponsored by the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives. This year’s winners were Victoria Rocquin, of St. James Parish, and Nathan Hoffpauir, of Lafayette Parish.
“I’ve been looking forward to co-op camp all year,” said Victoria Rocquin, a second-year attendee. “I have learned so much about cooperative business, and I am a better leader because of it.”
Five participants who ranked third through seventh place in the award interview received $50 checks. They were Nydia Cooper, of St. James Parish; Tiona Harris, of Franklin Parish; Abby White, of St. James Parish; Jenna White, of St. James Parish; and Clay Zaunbrecher, of Vermilion Parish.