Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs

It is County Fair time again and we have been getting many calls from county fair judges and 4-H members preparing for their fairs. Over the past few years, we have tried to explain what makes an acceptable exhibit for county fair and what projects would be better represented by only a write-up and pictures of the actual food product. It can be difficult for 4-H families, judges, and Extension and Outreach staff to all understand and remember just what foods are safe and acceptable to exhibit at County Fair.

We have a publication explaining this information that is updated every few years. This publication covers most common foods and the rationale for including or excluding a food for exhibit. Unfortunately, we cannot include every food product in this list. In an effort to make this publication user friendly, the information is presented in chart form. This format allows for the inclusion of only a handful of examples in every category. It can be frustrating for 4-H members unable to find their exact exhibit listed in the publication, but the “method notes” section lists some explanations of why an item is or is not considered acceptable for exhibit.

Even though many food products are not considered acceptable for exhibit at the fair these same foods could be exhibited by using a write-up only format. These foods could be prepared at home and photographed. The 4-H member can provide a self-evaluation of the product or an evaluation by family members, friends, or other 4-H members in the write-up. The pictures and evaluation would be included in the write up along with the goal statement, description of what I did, and what I learned information in the write-up. This very complete write-up would be entered at the county fair as the food and nutrition exhibit and would be judged at the same time as other food products are judged. A well-written exhibit has an excellent opportunity of being chosen to go to the Iowa State Fair.

If you are preparing for a fair, either call us at 1-800-262-3804 or email us at We are very happy to help.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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