Farmers Union Leadership Camp theme "Beyond Imagination" includes Philip's Chana Gottsleben

Almost 100 teens and staff from across South Dakota gathered in the heart of the scenic Black Hills recently to celebrate the elements of rural life - member-owned cooperatives. The camp is sponsored by the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation.

Campers included Chana Gottsleben of Philip.

The cooperative theme at the 74th annual Farmers Union camp was emphasized through hands-on experience as the young people organized and operated a cooperative store, daily newspaper, credit union, coffee co-op and a mutual insurance company.

"Learning is by doing," said SDFU Foundation Education Director Bonnie Geyer. "Most of these young people's parents are members of one or more cooperative enterprises. The best way for them to learn about these businesses is to become active participants and board members if only for a few days."

Other highlights were Bret Merkle from Harrisburg who taught the campers about overcoming obstacles in life and to never give up. Sheltered Reality, a musical group who promotes self confidence and cooperation through music, inspired the participants on Wednesday evening.

Representatives from the South Dakota Highway Patrol talked to the group about the dangers of drinking and driving and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Other camp programs included a presentation by state FFA officers on etiquette and citizenship, interactive cooperative activities and Hometown Pride and Patriotic days.

Six young people were elected to serve on the Farmers Union Junior Advisory Council (JAC) for 2008-2009. The JACs will assist in planning and conducting the 2009 edition of the family farm and ranch organization's senior leadership camp.