4.1 Competition and Youth Development

4-H’s mission is to empower youth to reach their full potential through working and learning in partnership with caring adults. Many volunteers and staff work to assist youth in developing knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable them to become productive and contributing members of society. It is important for adults to keep this goal in mind and recognize that youth need to learn how to complete projects, not someone else. While there are obviously differences in the abilities of third grade student as compared to a twelfth-grade student, the potential for youth to learn is always greatest when youth are responsible for completing the various aspects of their project.

In competitive events, parents and others focusing on winning the competition and not on developing the youth can overlook the mission of youth development. The following principles should be recognized for determining rules regarding 4-H members doing their own work.

  • Help from family members is appropriate for some aspects of the However, the exhibitors should have increased responsibility as they mature in their project skills. 
  • Teamwork is a life skill and working together with other 4-H'ers is appropriate. 
  • Professionals or individuals who are paid to do similar work and are older than 4-H age and not related to the youth, should not be involved in aspects of the project that are directly related to exhibition and competition. Along with principles, the following questions should be asked for determining rules regarding 4-H members doing their own work: 
    • Is the 4-H member capable of completing the work, even if the level of expertise is different from other youth or adults?
    • Are other youth of similar age capable of completing the work? Is the assistance offered by other exhibitors or family members focused on competition for exhibition or is the youth involved in the process and able to improve his/her own skills?


4.2 Project Exhibitions

Exhibition of 4-H projects/subjects in local, county, or state exhibits/fairs, in person or virtually, is voluntary on the part of the exhibitor. The exhibition of 4-H projects/subjects provides 4-H members an opportunity to display their 4-H projects/subjects, enter into competition, and participate in an educational/social environment with peers. With exhibition also comes the responsibility for abiding by all the terms and conditions pertaining to the respective 4-H project.


4.3 Project Experience

A 4-H experience may include a variety of options and must not be misinterpreted solely as exhibition of a project at a local, county, or state fair. There are a number of ways that a young person may participate in the 4-H Youth Development Program in addition to the club-based option. Participating in these 4-H opportunities enable the youth to build skills that will serve them well throughout their adult lives.

Some of these participation options do not include the preparation of a specific exhibit by an individual that would be on display at a fair or similar event. In some cases, the youths’ actual participation may be the final product that results in their completion of a year of 4-H. Some examples of this participation include working as a team to develop a robot for a workshop or challenge; participating in a Spark Club experience; participating in State 4-H Band or Chorus; taking part in a science training or experiment; participating in an after school 4-H experience; etc.

Language of “completing” a 4-H experience should be avoided or requiring a specific output. Every 4-H'ers experience may be different. 4-H members are considered complete in their 4-H educational experience for the year when they have (1) completed the 4-H member enrollment process prior to the established and published date for enrolling; and (2) had an officially recognized 4-H volunteer/Extension Educator verify the existence of the completed project/subject or the member’s participation in a 4-H educational experience – this could be in the form of an exhibit, poster, report, presentation, etc. Or, a member may choose to submit a completed record sheet in lieu of an exhibit to complete the club- or fair-based 4-H project/subject. The 4-H record sheet will be based on printed or web-based educational materials (used by Indiana 4-H Youth Development) and submitted prior to the established and published date.

Though exhibiting in local, county, and state exhibits/fairs is not required for project completion, as it does not necessarily relate directly to content and skills learned in the development of the 4-H project, project exhibition is encouraged as a continuation of the educational experience.

Per state and federal guidelines, volunteers and Extension Educators may not require youth to attend 4-H club meetings in order to complete 4-H or exhibit their work, unless required by the state 4-H office for safety.


4.4 Definition of Competitive Event

A 4-H competitive event is one in which 4-H members compete individually or as teams for special recognition. The term “event” is used for 4-H divisions/classes and activities that are part of a larger program, which includes non-4-H competitive events, as well as those events exclusively 4-H. 4-H competitive events include judging contests, presentations, project exhibits and other performance events open to 4-H members. When competition is a major part of an event, it must be understood that competition is secondary to the education and development of youth.


4.5 Criteria for Competitive Event

Criteria for competitive events in 4-H include:

  • Sponsored/co-sponsored and/or conducted by Purdue University Extension Professionals and/or approved 4-H Volunteers (adult and youth volunteers).
  • Approved by and/or conducted by Extension staff responsible for the
  • Rules and regulations established by or approved by Extension staff responsible for the
  • Open to participation by 4-H members from county, group of counties, district, state, region, or
  • Participants must be enrolled in 4-H during the current 4-H
  • Approval has been obtained to use the 4-H name and
  • Utilize the 4-H name and emblem in promotion and
  • Provide a safe and healthy environment with a positive educational experience for


4.6 Exhibition Deadlines

4-H project exhibitions occur through a variety of methods: county fairs, career development events, and other statewide competitive events. The following statewide deadlines will be followed by all county programs annually:

  • May 15 – All animals requiring 4-H Animal Identification (as accordance with Board of Animal Health regulations) must be identified in 4-HOnline
  • No less than one week or more than three weeks before the first 4-H project check-in date – Counties are free to choose a date which works with their calendar. Counties must publicize their selected date by January 1 of each year. The items below must be completed by the selected date for each county:
    • 4-H'ers exhibiting beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, meat goats, dairy goats, poultry and rabbits must complete Indiana 4-H Quality Livestock Care or Youth for the Quality Care for Animals (YQCA).
    • All exhibits must be entered into FairEntry for the county of exhibition. This serves as the “drop/add” deadline for 4-H projects.
      • Livestock projects must identify classes of exhibition. Those missing this deadline may exhibit and will have opportunities to receive feedback from the judge. Youth may still participate fully in showmanship classes.
      • Non-livestock projects must identify classes of exhibition. Those missing the deadline may compete and the highest placing is “blue.” Counties should correct mistakes in classes in FairEntry when mistakes are made by 4-H members.
      • The intent for this deadline is for individuals who make no attempt to complete FairEntry by the county’s selected date. Counties may use their discretion as to the attempt made by individuals.
  • Note: the May 15 deadline referenced above will be extended to the following business day in a year when May 15 falls on a weekend or holiday.

4.7 Exhibition Requirements

4-H project exhibitions occur through a variety of methods. Some examples include county fairs, career development events, and other statewide competitive events. Some competitive events have specific requirements (e.g. state robotics, career development events, performing arts, tractor operator skills, etc). Guidelines for these specific competitive events can be found on the Indiana 4-H website.

A county may not disqualify a youth from exhibition based on additional requirements added at the local/county level (e.g. green folders, record of achievements, record sheets, missed deadlines, incorrect classes, and/or missing or incorrect paperwork) for state 4-H projects which earn promotion to the Indiana State Fair.


4.8 Guidelines for Animal Exhibits

Each 4-H member shall own his/her 4-H exhibit. Ownership, personal possession, and regular care of the animal must be in effect on or before the county and state enrollment deadlines and continuously until after the 4-H show at the county and/or state fair.

  1. For 4-H breeding animals: family corporations and/or partnerships of 4-H members with one or more parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or legal guardians are acceptable.
  2. For 4-H dairy cattle: family corporations and/or partnerships of the 4-H member with unrelated persons or dairy operations are also acceptable.
  3. Dairy cows (as long as the animal is being shown by same 4-H'er from 2020 and forward) and heifers, horses, ponies, alpacas and llamas may be leased subject to approval of both the county 4-H dairy, horse and pony, or llama committee and the respective County Extension Educator. 4-H animals (horse and pony, dairy, alpacas and llamas are only eligible to be leased by a single 4-H member in a 4-H program year.
  4. 4-H animals are expected to be in the possession and regular care of the 4-H member who owns/leases them (unless other arrangements have been agreed upon by the County 4-H Extension Educator) from the animal ID deadline until the conclusion of the county and/or state fair.
  5. 4-H market animals and commercial animals must be individually identified and verified under the supervision of the county 4-H program at county identification events by May 15th each year (or the following business day if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday). These species include market lambs and commercial ewes, dairy wethers, dairy feeder steers, dairy beef steers, beef steers, market and commercial heifers, meat goat wethers, and market wether dams.
  6. 4-H animals purchased, sold or offered for sale after the ID deadline and prior to the Indiana State Fair (including animals that have gone through a "Premium Only Auction"), shall not be eligible to show in the 4-H show at the Indiana State Fair. Sale of products of animals (milk, cheese, wool, etc.) in lieu of the animal, are considered equivalent to a "Premium Only Auction."
  7. 4-H animals exhibited after the May 15 (or the following business day if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday) State 4-H animal ID deadline at any show by anyone other than the individual whose 4-H enrollment record is connected to the ID of the animal in Indiana 4-H Online will not be eligible to be shown in the 4-H show at the Indiana State Fair. This term/condition does not apply to siblings, who may show each other’s animals at any show during the year without jeopardizing State Fair eligibility. 4-H animals that are selected by 4-H Extension Staff or 4-H Adult Volunteers for use in supreme showmanship contests (Master Showmanship, Round Robin, etc.) may be used in those county events without jeopardizing State Fair eligibility. This policy applies to all 4-H animal projects. For animal projects without state ID deadlines, the person who enters them in the Indiana State Fair 4-H show is the equivalent of the owner of the animals.
  8. Temporary guardianships established for the intent of animal exhibition or grooming purposes are not permitted and shall result in immediate disqualification.

See State Fair Terms and Conditions section of this handbook for the Indiana State Fair species ownership guidelines.


4.9 Food Safety Rule for Foods Entered into County and Statewide Competitions

Beginning in the year 2000, all county and state fair handbooks must contain the entire policy as stated below:

 For Food Competitions: Fillings, frostings, glazes, and meringues are not permitted to contain cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, or whipped cream if they are not fully cooked/baked. These items are allowed as ingredients in food products IF the final product is cooked/baked. Additionally, raw milk, raw milk products or uncooked eggs/egg whites are not permitted. Eggs/egg whites that have been cooked to 160oF (i.e. pasteurized or included as part of a batter and baked) are acceptable. No home- canned fruits, vegetables, or meats are permitted as ingredients in food products.

Fresh-cut, uncooked, fruits and/or vegetables are not permitted to be used in food products or used as garnishes for the product. Foods should be transported to the competition in a way that minimizes contamination and maintains the quality of the food (i.e. foods that are judged as frozen should remain frozen at all times).

Recipes must be provided that identifies all ingredients that were used in each part of the product. Any ingredient that could be a potential allergen must be clearly identified. Each food product must be labeled with the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact information (phone and/or email address)
  • Date the food product was made

 Contestants should carefully wash their hands and make sure that their hands do not have any open cuts before preparing foods. If cuts are present, the wound should be bandaged and a single use food service glove worn on the hand during all stages of food production. Contestants should not be preparing food exhibits for competition within 48 hours of recovering from any illness. People experiencing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and/or jaundice should not be allowed to prepare food.

Judges and individuals who will consume products from county and/or state competitions should be informed that they are at risk for foodborne illness since the established policy cannot guarantee that an entry has been properly prepared or handled before, during or following the competition. The food products for competitions are home produced and processed and the production area is not inspected by the Indiana State Department of Health. Tasting of a food product is solely at the discretion of the judge and consumers. Judges are NOT to taste any home preserved foods such as low-acid or acidified foods like green beans, tomatoes or tomato products, jams/jellies/fruit preserves or fermented products produced in the home.


4.10 4-H Opportunity for All

The Indiana 4-H Program is a federally-assisted program and as such, all programs, activities, events and competitions (state, area, county, local) must be non-discriminatory according to federal law. Additionally, the 4-H Program may not accept sponsorships, donations, or awards that are based on discriminatory practices.

Gender specific competitions and awards are not permissible under Title IX (Non-discrimination on the Basis of Sex) of the Educational Amendments enacted by Congress in 1972. This act states:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

All Purdue Cooperative Extension Service programs and methods shall be implemented in a manner that ensures nondiscrimination on the basis of gender for all participants.

This means that the practice of arranging competitions or awarding trips, scholarships, etc. on the basis of gender categories is not acceptable in 4-H Youth Development Programs.

In all cases, the requirements for competitions must provide equal access for all youth and must not be designed to create barriers to participation.

4.11 Royalty Contests

4-H Fair Queen and/or King contests (or contests sponsored by 4-H Fair Associations and subcommittees thereof) where the awards are based upon a combination of factors related to personal appearance, poise and talent of participants are permissible activities.

These 4-H events may not however, discriminate against any participant based upon race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, parental status, or marital status.

Criteria for selection of a 4-H Fair Queen/King can be based upon the candidate’s appearance, poise, and talent.

Criteria for selection of a 4-H Fair Queen/King cannot be based upon the candidate’s 4-H enrollment, accomplishments or achievements.

It is recommended that these contests are called royalty contests to highlight compliance with Title IX requirements and allow individual contestants to select their title (e.g. Queen, King, etc).

*Those individuals who are selected to represent their county at the Indiana State Fair Queen Contest must meet the guidelines for that activity. The Indiana State Fair Contest is not a Purdue University Cooperative Extension/Indiana 4-H sponsored activity.


4.12 Grievance/Appeal Guidelines for County 4-H Program Issues (Activities, Programs, Projects)

The grievance procedures outlined in this document are utilized as part of an internal process of the Indiana 4-H Youth Development program when grievances of 4-H members, their parents/guardians, or 4-H volunteers cannot be resolved via reasonable conversation. This policy affords the opportunity in those unique situations to allow voice or opinion to be heard when there is a dispute regarding 4-H participation, activities or programs. This is not a mechanism for complaints against individual 4-H members (or their families), 4-H volunteers, judging officials for competitive events, or Purdue Extension staff. All resulting decisions will be made in accordance with the Indiana 4-H Program’s stated mission to be an inclusive organization designed to encourage and maximize youth participation. The rights of the individual filing the grievance are limited to those provided by Indiana 4-H Program policy.

Purdue University, as the Land Grant University in Indiana, is charged (by the United States Department of Agriculture) with implementing the 4-H Program in communities across the State of Indiana.

Purdue Extension Educators in each Indiana county represent the university in local communities and have the responsibility of assuring all 4-H volunteers meet basic university criteria as they serve as representatives of the university. Purdue Extension Educators additionally provide oversight to 4-H volunteers including the assurance that Indiana 4-H Policies and Procedures are appropriately implemented in 4-H Program delivery. 

Individual county 4-H policies and procedures should be created and reviewed to assure they do not contradict established statewide 4-H policies and procedures. If a contradiction is discovered during the grievance process, Indiana 4-H Program policy shall be followed in determining the grievance outcome.

  1. Grievances are made by completing the Indiana 4-H Grievance/Appeal form with the burden of proof being the responsibility of the individual filing the The completed grievance/appeal form and supporting documentation shall be presented to the president of the 4-H policy-making body (e.g., 4-H Council) or the Purdue Extension Educator who works with the 4-H Program. (NOTE: concerns regarding staff, volunteers, members, or other individuals are not issues for which a grievance may be filed. 4-H volunteers are assigned by the 4-H Extension Educator. Concerns regarding 4-H volunteers, members, or other individuals should be addressed directly with the Purdue 4-H Extension Educator.)
  2. Grievances pertaining to 4-H activities, programs or projects shall be filed within 14 days of an incident or Grievances pertaining to county fair related issues are often time-sensitive and must be filed within 24 hours of the incident.
  3. The grievance process occurs in the county where the issue or concern arises and offers two opportunities for a concern to be heard and reviewed.
    1. The grievance is initially heard by an unbiased, representative grievance sub-committee of approved 4-H Volunteers. It is the Purdue Extension Educator assigned to 4-H Programming who shall annually work with the chair of the county 4-H Council to determine this committee’s membership to include a combination of 3-6 of the following individuals: one representative of the 4-H Council; two 4-H volunteers serving as a 4-H club organizational leader; one member of the County Extension Board; one 4-H volunteer knowledgeable in the subject matter (project) of concern (this individual will vary dependent on the issue raised with the grievance); one youth representative; and up to three community leaders. The Purdue Extension Educator assigned to 4-H shall convene the group.
    2. The person filing a grievance may appeal a decision of the 4-H Grievance Committee to the State 4-H Program Leader or The Program Leader or designee will review the facts in evidence and render a decision. This is the second and final level in the appeal process. 

** The intent of a two-level process is to assure different individuals have the opportunity to hear and act on the grievance. ALL individuals involved at any level of the grievance procedure are reminded of the importance of keeping discussions regarding grievances confidential. 

To maintain the confidentiality of the parties involved, the grievance hearings at each level will be closed to the public. Only the individuals who have filed the grievance, the members of the grievance committee, and the Purdue Extension Educators will be present during each level of the grievance process, ***The grievance process is internal to the Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program and meetings of the grievance committees are not subject to Indiana’s Open-Door Policy. 

The Purdue Extension Educator assigned to work with the 4-H Program has the obligation to inform all parties that there is a grievance procedure if there are disagreements with policies. 

The practice of charging fees from those filing grievances shall be eliminated and all counties will utilize the Indiana 4-H Grievance/Appeal Form as part of the grievance process.


4.12.1 Grievance Form

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