MarketMaxx winners had fun in the sun last summer. They made mid-year trades that led to big prizes, which helped warm up spirits as winter arrived.

It was especially rewarding for Cory Brandau, Peotone, IL, and Scott Arthur, Washington, IN — grand prize winners in the corn and soybean marketing contests, respectively.

Brandau's average selling price was $9.43.95/bu.; Arthur's average soybean selling price was $17.20/bu.

Overall, the winners' simulated corn sales were between $8.30 and $9.44/bu. The simulated soybean sales hovered high at $15.39-17.20/bu. The game's elite players pulled their MarketMaxx triggers at the right time during the summer's runaway rallies. They made sure their trades stayed in place when markets began to tumble during late summer.

MarketMaxx is a corn and soybean marketing game from Corn & Soybean Digest and parent company Penton Media. The objective of the game is to help growers improve their marketing skills without facing real-life financial risks, and have a chance to win super prizes.

MORE THAN 8,280 players took part in the contest. Each had 100,000 bu. of simulated corn and 50,000 bu. of simulated soybeans to trade from January through midnight Oct. 31 when the contest ended.

There were no financial risks for margin calls, so growers could use corn and soybean futures and options in any way they wanted. And there were also some astute cash contracts made by players.

As grand prize winner in the corn contest, Brandau wins one year's free use of a Gleaner R5 or A5 combine from AGCO (up to 100 combine separator hours).

At 20 years old, the young grower cash rents land in northeastern Illinois and also farms with an uncle, Ralph Sangmeister. He received MarketMaxx tips from Ralph and another uncle, Roy — a marketing wizard in his own right.

“My uncle Roy got me into the game and got me going,” says Brandau, who recently interned at a western Nebraska irrigation farm.

Arthur's game-high soybean average price wins him a year's use of an AGCO RT or DT tractor (up to 250 tractor hours).

The 35-year-old grower farms with his brother, Gary, and cousin, John Memering. They grow corn and double-crop beans with wheat. “My cousin John and I have been handling the majority of the marketing for the past six years, with my brother Gary adding input since becoming a partner two years ago,” he says. “My uncle, Gerry Memering, taught us the basics of grain marketing.”

Other MarketMaxx winners in the corn marketing contest include: second place, Howard Wilson, Marlette, MI, with an average selling price of $8.68.14; third place, Donnie Salac, 46, Robertsdale, AL, with an $8.60.05 average price; and fourth place, his brother, Greg, 39, also from Robertsdale, who averaged $8.34.22.

Wilson wins a complete computer system, including software, courtesy of Syngenta Crop Protection. He grows corn, soybeans, wheat and hay and likes the fact that playing MarketMaxx “takes the emotion out of marketing. I couldn't figure out how someone could do so well on the leaderboard until I started working with options,” he says.

THE THIRD PLACE prize for Donnie Salac is a Leica mojoRTK auto-steer system from Leica Geosystems. Greg Salac wins a DICKEY-john mini GAC Plus handheld moisture tester.

The brothers grow soybeans with double-cropped wheat, as well as a few peanuts with their father Thomas, 69. He also played MarketMaxx and couldn't let the boys get the big head. He placed third in the soybean contest, with an average selling price of $15.39.65. He also wins a DICKEY-john mini GAC Plus handheld moisture tester.

“We played the game regularly,” says Donnie. “We talked about it every morning and discussed what we were going to do that day.”

Amber Beakley, 29, Ennis, TX, took second place in soybeans with an average selling price of $16.69.25. She also wins a computer system complete with software from Syngenta Crop Protection.

She farms with family partners — husband Steven, and his parents Bob and Linda Beakley. They grow corn, soybeans and wheat and run cattle. “We love playing the game and play it two to three times a week,” she says.

Players monitored the bi-weekly MarketMaxx newsletter to gauge their selling prices against the leaders. The year-long volatility of the corn and beans markets was apparent in the leaderboards. For example, the Jan. 22 newsletter had the leading corn price at $4.41/bu., with soybean leaders at about $11/bu.

By mid-March, corn leaders were well over $6 and soybean sales topped $16. Mid-summer MarketMaxx leaders saw their corn at over $8 and soybeans topping $22. Those prices all tracked actual futures prices.

In October, actual soybean markets had dropped to below $12, yet the game's leaders still had $17+ locked in. Actual corn prices at or below $4 were half of what the MarketMaxx leaders had on the board.

The 8,283 MarketMaxx players were from all 50 states, with the bulk of them form the Corn Belt. There were 1,203 players from Iowa, 913 from Illinois, 720 from Minnesota, 636 from Nebraska, 540 from Indiana, 480 from Ohio, 458 from North Dakota, 357 from Wisconsin, 334 from Kansas, 328 from South Dakota, 253 from Missouri and 249 from Michigan.

Corn & Soybean Digest thanks these sponsors for making Market Maxx possible: Gleaner AGCO, AGCO, Syngenta Crop Protection, Leica Geosystems and DICKEY-John Corp.

Note: The MarketMaxx contest will not continue in 2009.