Record Livestock and Horticulture Entries Exhibited by 4-H Youth at the Iowa State Fair

September 15, 2023, 9:38 am | Sydney Peterson, Celine Beggs-Shoemaker

Iowa 4-H youth showcase their sheep.AMES, Iowa  – Iowa 4-H celebrated record-breaking participation of over 6,000 entries in 4-H livestock and horticulture entries during the 2023 Iowa State Fair.

The event’s highlight was the increase in beef and poultry project areas. The 4-H Beef Show, held on Aug. 15 and 16, showcased 693 animals. In addition, the 4-H Poultry Show on Aug. 11 featured 352 animals.

“Exhibiting livestock and horticulture projects helps youth develop many positive life skills,” explained Celine Beggs-Shoemaker, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H animal science specialist. “Throughout the year, while working with their animals, youth not only learn important animal science skills like animal care, feeding, record keeping and safety, but life skills like leadership, responsibility and sportsmanship.”

Nearly 2,000 Iowa youth enthusiastically engaged in 4-H livestock and horticulture exhibits during the 2023 Iowa State Fair.

The 2023 Iowa State Fair 4-H Horticulture Show hosted 36 youth exhibitors from 17 counties across Iowa, both up 24% from 2022. They showed 632 herbs and vegetables in 95 categories – the most entries since 2017 and up 31% from 2022.

“Youth entered a variety of projects, including an assortment of brassica (cabbage and kohlrabi), nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant), herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), peppers, squash, onions and beets,” Beggs-Shoemaker said.

Earl and Kerri McAlexander with 4-H produce.The horticulture projects were on display from Aug. 12 through Aug. 14. “While some exhibitors come back to take their vegetables home for personal use, many of the 4-H youth want to share their product with the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Earl McAlexander, Iowa 4-H youth extension specialist. “This gives the families some fresh food in addition to the daily meals prepared for the evening mealtime.”

McAlexander and his wife, Kerri McAlexander, help with the 4-H Horticulture Show at the Iowa State Fair. Each year, they collect the vegetables at the show’s end that 4-H youth do not want to take home and donate them to the Ronald McDonald House of Des Moines. This year, the produce was over 100 pounds.

The Ronald McDonald House is next to the Blank Children’s Hospital. Up to 18 families with a child being treated at the hospital can stay for a very minimal cost due to donations of people throughout the year.

“This donation of fresh produce is one of the ways 4-H youth give their hands to larger service by giving back to help those in their communities,” McAlexander said.

“The 4-H Horticulture Show is a great opportunity for youth to get involved in a project right in their backyard and improve their gardening skills while providing a healthy food source for their family,” said Beggs-Shoemaker.

For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at

Sharable photos and captions


About the Authors: