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National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium

Delegates to the 1972 National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium pose as a group on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. (from Summer 1972 National 4-H Service Committee Comments)

Originally termed the "4-H Grain Marketing Tour and Clinic," this event hosted by the Chicago Board of Trade began in 1952.

The February 1952 National 4-H News carried the following article:

"Sponsored by the Chicago Board of Trade, the 4-H Grain Marketing Awards Program launched on a small scale last year will reach into more grain growing areas this coming year. This means that a greater number of 4-H'ers will give attention to what happens to their wheat, corn, oats, soybeans, and other grains as they go to market.

"The program's purpose is to encourage 4-H members and leaders to learn the fundamentals of grain marketing and the relationship of the various segments of the grain industry in moving grain from farm to consumer.

"In the 1951 activity, two state winners in each of the three states visited the Chicago Board of Trade early in 1952, studied its operations, and participated in a discussion of the program. They were from Colorado, Iowa and Kansas, the only states then participating.

"The 1952 awards program is being offered to Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, in addition to the three previously mentioned states. The awards are: In the county, a gold-filled medal to each of four winners. At the State level, two winners will be named who, with a chaperon, will receive all-expense trips to the Chicago Board of Trade early in 1953. In each of the States mentioned the State 4-H Club leader has complete information about this grain marketing awards program."

Therefore, it appears that the "birth" of the 4-H Grain Marketing Tour and Clinic (National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium) actually was a part of the initial creation of the Commodity Marketing awards program, itself, from the onset.

The March 1954 National 4-H News carried a good feature (including front cover) on the 4-H Grain Marketing tour that year:

Grain Marketing Winners Tour Chicago Board of Trade

"Twenty 4-H boys from 10 central and southwest states and 11 of their county and state Extension leaders spent two days observing how the Chicago Board of Trade functions in the movement of grain from farms to ultimate users.

"It was the third year in which the Board provided gold-filled medals for county winners and trips to Chicago for two state winners and a leader in a grain marketing program arranged by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and conducted by the Extension Service.

"The club folks got their first view of the Board's operations when they witnessed from the visitors' gallery the opening of the trading pits where millions of bushels of grain are handled daily in the cash and future market.

"The visitors watched in wonder the machine gun transactions in grain and provisions from the fifth floor of the Board's 43-story building overlooking the Chicago loop.

"Housed in this world-famous mercantile landmark are the brokerage houses which sell grain for producers or owners, offices of buyers' representatives and speculators, and other services such as grading, sampling and weighing...

"Burton D. Loken, director of public relations, chaired the afternoon program, briefly pointing out that the board provided four main benefits to the grain trade: 1. It spreads the risk over a number of buyers. 2. Gives grain a better loan value, as the amount and grade are established. 3. Fixes the going value. 4. Provides orderly marketing.

"The functioning of the cash grain market with blackboard illustrations was explained in layman's language by William J. Walton of General Mills.

"This company, like many other food milling concerns, is a heavy buyer. The futures' market was explained by James P. Reichmann, a Board member.

"Speaking for the Extension Service, Willis B. Combs, senior marketing specialist, USDA, traced the development of producers interest in the grain marketing program and reasons therefore. It was of special benefit to 4-H members, he said, because it actively integrates them with the economic life of the community..."

The states taking part in the 1954 tour included: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

In an article on the eighth 4-H Grain Marketing Clinic and Tour, held on January 13-15, 1959 in Chicago which appeared in the February issue of National 4-H News, John Banning, 4-H Club Programs, Federal Extension Service, made this point: "If a farmer today is going to make more money and a better margin of profit, it will be through closer attention to marketing."

Twenty-four delegates from 12 states, plus a chaperon from each state, witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes action in the Chicago Board of Trade's grain exchange during their three-day stay in the Windy City during the 1959 event. Emphasis throughout the clinic ran to better marketing for top profits, and production of cleaner grain to allow higher grades and higher prices. Closing recommendation by panel moderator Frank Campbell, Wisconsin State 4-H Leader, was for delegates to initiate action to spread knowledge of grain marketing when they return to their states. Hurried through a carefully-planned program of talks, movies and tours, the 4-H'ers learned about such previously puzzling terms as cash and future markets; scalpers, position traders and spreaders; hedging; and terminal market.

The March 1963 issue of National Committee COMMENTS, distributed by the National 4-H Service Committee, states "another successful 4-H Grain Marketing Tour and Clinic convened at the Chicago Board of Trade, January 29-31, again exemplifying how 4-H'ers benefit from cooperation on the part of Extension, business groups, and the National Committee. Thirteen states were represented by two delegates each - all boys, except for one lone girl: Jeanette Felix of Texas. They witnessed the opening of the grain trading pit, saw how grain is inspected, visited a grain processing plant, learned more about "futures," and gained a better knowledge of marketing grain in general.

Several delegates and leaders appeared on Don McNeill's "Breakfast Club" program over the ABC Radio Network on the last morning of their visit. More than 65 taped interviews were made for radio farm directors, and the event received good press, both in Chicago and in delegates' home areas.

During the 1960s the event had a name change to National 4-H Grain Marketing Conference and by 1970 it became known as the National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium - the name it was known as for the rest of it's existence.

The 19th annual Conference received a featured 2-page spread in the Winter 1970 National 4-H Service Committee COMMENTS. Twenty-five states participated that year representing: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

When Henry H. Wilson, president of the Chicago Board of Trade, opened the conference he reminded his audience that although the Board of Trade is 122 years old it is a young organization, run by young men and women for the modern business world. He said that both the current chairman and the preceding chairman were only 41 years old - "a young age to head the largest trading institution in the world and second largest financial institution." For the complete feature see pages 6-7 of the Winter 1970 COMMENTS in the Books and Other References Archive of the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The 1970 National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium - in addition to a name change - restructured and broadened the program which was designed to implement the basic principles of marketing and the application of these principles to all commodities sold in cash markets and traded in futures markets of major commodity exchanges... not just grain. Awards remained the same as previous years. Marvin Swan, Ogallala, Nebraska, was named first-place winner in the 1970 National 4-H Commodity Marketing essay contest sponsored by the Chicago Board of Trade, Cooperative Extension Service and National 4-H Service Committee. "We in America have what many nations can only dream of in our ample supply of agricultural products. Through 4-H and well-planned 4-H grain marketing projects, a young person has a chance to learn his place in the great task of producing and marketing food for this hungry world," young Swan wrote. Andy Smyth, Wilder, Idaho, was named second-place winner and Sherilyn Rayburn, La Grande, Oregon, third place winner.

The 22nd National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium was held on January 21-24, 1973 in Chicago. The symposium continued to be sponsored by The Chicago Board of Trade, the Cooperative Extension Service and the National 4-H Service Committee. The 20 boys and five girls were from: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Missouri. Other states represented were California, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

Delegates were welcomed by Henry H. Wilson, president of The Board of Trade, and Norman C. Mindrum, director of the National 4-H Service Committee. Dr. Lloyd Besant, director of education, Board of Trade, discussed the "History and Development of Futures" and explained "The Basics of Hedging." Dr. Reid M. Grigsby, marketing specialist, Louisiana State University, and Tyrus W. Thompson, assistant director, National Committee, led a discussion of "New Horizons in Commodity Marketing. The group enjoyed a sightseeing bus tour of Chicago on Monday afternoon and viewed Chicago at night from the observation deck of the 100-story Hancock Center. They had dinner in Chicago's Chinatown.

Frederick C. Uhlmann, chairman of the Board of Trade, opened the symposium on Tuesday. Everett Klipp, treasurer of the John S. Morris & Co., grain trader, explained pit trading before the 4-H'ers toured the trading floor with traders who readily answered questions. Staff members of The Board explained "Basic speculation" to delegates. Dr. Richard Sandor, vice president and chief economist for The Board, spoke on "The Future of Futures," and Warren W. Lebeck, The Board's executive vice president, put the exchange, commission house and the public's understanding of marketing into perspective. Awards were presented by Chairman Uhlmann, at the recognition banquet where Dr. Kemp S. Swiney, program leader, 4-H-Youth, Extension Service, USDA, spoke. A theatre party closed the day's activities, ending the 1973 Symposium..

1976 was a special Marketing Symposium - the 25th anniversary. The importance of U.S. farm commodities to the nation and to the world received major emphasis at the 25th annual 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium on February 29-March 3, attended by 4-H'ers from 25 states. In observance of the 25th anniversary, nine persons who helped pioneer the 4-H commodity program were presented awards at the recognition banquet.

And, for 25 years the event's sponsorship had remained unchanged, sponsored jointly by The Chicago Board of Trade, the Cooperative Extension Service and the National 4-H Service Committee.

The nine pioneer awards went to: Kenneth H. Anderson, associate director, National 4-H Service Committee; Raymond A. Gerstenberg, Chicago Board of Trade member; Reid M. Grigsby, program development chairman, 4-H Commodity Marketing program, and head of extension marketing division, Louisiana State University; Fred L. Haegele, Illinois 4-H staff; Irwin Johnson, former program developer, now director for education, Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Edward J. Kazmerek, former Chicago Board of Trade member, now with Illinois Grain Corp.; Warren W. Lebeck, Chicago Board of Trade president; Leslie F. Stice, former program developer, extension economist, University of Illinois; and Tyrus W. Thompson, assistant director, National 4-H Service Committee.

Delegates to the 1976 Symposium attended seminars conducted by members of the Chicago Board of Trade and other marketing experts, on futures contracts, pit trading, hedging, speculation and international trade. They also had an opportunity to visit the floor of the exchange and see the trading action firsthand... the only visiting group to the Board of Trade which is accorded this annual honor year after year.

The following article appeared in the January 16, 1981 issue of The Lewiston Journal:

"Why does the price of lettuce fluctuate from week to week at the supermarket?

"How might a severe drought in the wheat-producing states affect the price of bread in your local supermarket?

"Both examples are tied to the economics of marketing and distribution studied by members in the National 4-H Commodity Marketing program conducted by the Cooperative Extension Service and supported by the Chicago Board of Trade.

"Members learned that commodity marketing involves everything from planting and harvesting a raw product to storing and transportation; to processing the raw product for use as food, fiber or other end products, to the merchandising and selling of the end product.

"4-H commodity marketing programs are designed around such widely diverse products as clothing from a garment center to consumer education, and from silver and forest products to crop and livestock production.

"Members learn the basic principles of a free market system and how it relates to commodities sold in cash markets and traded in futures markets of major commodity exchanges; participate in marketing activities which explain the use of futures markets as a management tool; share their knowledge of market information with other 4-H'ers and in project activities; and explore career opportunities in marketing agribusiness.

"Each year members get a better understanding of how a futures market operates at a Commodity Marketing Symposium in Chicago.

"Boys and girls, nine to 19, who excel in the program are eligible for awards, donated by the Chicago Board of Trade and arranged by National 4-H Council. Medals of honor are awarded to four members from each county and one 4-H'er from each state earns an expense-paid trip to the next year's symposium.

"The county Extension office may be contacted by anyone wishing additional information on the 4-H programs."

The 1982 Annual 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium was held on April 25-28 at the Chicago Board of Trade headquarters facility in Chicago's Loop. Forty state winners in the Commodity Marketing program participated in the event that combined the study of economics with tours, cultural attractions, recognition and entertainment. Among highlights of the conference that opened Sunday evening at McCormick Inn, were sessions at the Board of Trade, on the trading floor with members of the Board, simulated pit trading exercises and explanations of hedging, speculation and other trading terms and procedures. Participants heard a specialist on international trade and recounted highlights of their own production and marketing projects and activities. They also enjoyed a sight-seeing tour of Chicago, dined at an authentic Greek restaurant, and received recognition at an awards banquet.

Forty-nine 4-H delegates from around the United States participated in the 1983 National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium which offered the participants "hands-on" learning. The following article in the Kingman Daily Miner (May 23, 1983) submitted by Jerry Olson, Mohave County 4-H Agent, does a good job of detailing the experiences of 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium delegates:

"Bill Weldon, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Weldon of Lake Havasu City, recently returned from a four-day National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium in Chicago, Illinois.

"One of the delegates from around the United States, Bill participated in seminars and activities that explained the use of futures markets as a management tool. The symposium, sponsored by The Chicago Board of Trade and arranged by National 4-H Council in support of the Cooperative Extension Service, gave delegates an opportunity to personally experience commodity marketing.

"The young people visited the trading floor at the opening of the market to shadow traders as they bought and sold futures contracts. A highlight of the symposium was the chance for delegates to participate in simulated pit trading on the Board of Trade floor. The 4-H'ers also met with officials of The Chicago Board of Trade and heard from traders and marketing representatives.

"Bill learned the many methods of hand signals and vocal calls that each broker uses in the pits. In one split second Bill, acting as an agent for his sponsor/broker, sold 20,000 bushels of corn for a farmer in Iowa to a sheik in Saudi Arabia.

"Delegates to the 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium (all teenagers) are the only ones ever allowed on the trading floor and in the pits during the year other than the 1,402 registered brokers who pay $265,000 for a lifetime membership.

"In addition to the educational sessions, Bill experienced sightseeing tours of Chicago, an evening at the theater and recognition for his achievements in commodity marketing at an awards banquet. He also received a state winner pin for his project.

"Bill plans a career in business following his graduation this spring from Lake Havasu City High School.

"Through the 4-H Commodity Marketing program, Bill has learned what it is like to run his own business. He and his two brothers, Jack and Dan, own a donut business which has operated for three years at the local Sunday Swap Meet. They make hot, fresh donuts and hot and cold drinks in their own concession trailer.

"`My experience in the area of business so far has been exciting, interesting and challenging,' Bill said. `I have learned that supplying quality products at a reasonable price increases the number of new and repeat customers.'

"Bill plans to apply newly-acquired skills in his business and by using some new techniques he learned in Chicago, he will make things run more smoothly and become even more successful, he said.

"The trip to the symposium was provided by The Chicago Board of Trade, supporters of the National 4-H Commodity Marketing program."

The 1985 Commodity Marketing Symposium was featured in the Spring 1985 National 4-H Council Quarterly:

4-H'ers Learn About Marketing from the Pros

"The bell rang and everything broke loose! This was the scene witnessed by 45 4-H members from around the country as they experienced a typical day on the trading floor of The Chicago Board of Trade.

"The 34th annual Commodity Marketing Symposium, sponsored by the Board, brings 4-H'ers who have excelled in their commodity marketing projects to the Windy City for a four-day educational program including workshops, tours and other activities focusing on the basic principles of commodity marketing. The youth learn about hedging, speculation, international trade and financial futures from traders and marketing representatives. During the visit to the Board's trading floor, delegates shadow traders as they buy and sell futures contracts, but the highlight of the program for the young people was the simulated pit trading exercises after the trading had ended for the day.

"An Arizona 4-H member who attended the symposium developed her marketing project into a pecan business and also markets show steers. Kris Geldmacher, 17, Winkelman, says, `My pecan business started as just something to do after school was over and grew into a small business. As my reputation grew, so did the amount of my orders.'

"Another 4-H'er made a profit of more than $14,000 last year marketing beef cattle, hay and tobacco he raised himself. Leland Steely, 19, of Hazel, Kentucky says $6,500 of his profit from the 110 acres of wheat was obtained through the use of forward contracting. As part of his commodity marketing project he toured a broad variety of marketing outlets in his area and studied market reports daily. He says he has `learned how to watch and benefit from market reports, learned the value of forward contracting, and learned to investigate marketing outlets, local farmers, different elevators, stockyards and tobacco warehouses in order to get the best price for commodities.' Steely plans a career in agribusiness."

The 1986 Commodity Marketing Symposium welcomed 40 young people from 29 states to the Chicago Board of Trade. The delegates represented: Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. George Sladoje, executive vice president of the CBOT, at the opening session, explained the history and function of the Board. He told delegates that CBOT was started by 82 Chicago businessmen in April 1848 as a way of meeting the need for agricultural stabilization at harvest time.

The primary role of the Symposium is designed to help young people understand how the basic principles of marketing, distribution and utilization apply to commodities sold in cash markets and traded in futures markets of major exchanges. Delegates, who ranged in age from 15 to 19, had an opportunity to witness the buying and selling of futures contracts firsthand. They were granted the rare privilege of being in the octagonal trading pits when the opening bell sounded. The bell signals bedlam as traders shout and use a flurry of hand signals to auction off wheat, corn, soybean and oat crops. During a session on trading floor practices conducted by Everett Klipp of Alpha Futures, the delegates learned about the hand signals used by traders. A trader wishing to buy turns his palm inward. One wanting to sell turns his palm outward. Fingers held in a vertical position indicate quantity, while extending them horizontally expresses the price.

It is believed that the 1987 National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium may have been the last one offered as the Chicago Board of Trade discontinued their sponsorship of the Commodity Marketing program after that year.

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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