2021 Sale of Champions Sets Four Records

It was another record-breaking weekend at the Iowa State Fair as the 2021 Sale of Champions set a record by raising more than $445,000 for scholarships! The Sale of Champions also broke four records for the highest selling species. The Grand Champion FFA Market Lamb, exhibited by Phoebe Sanders of Eagle Grove, set a new sheep record at $18,500.

The Champion and Reserve Champion animals selected during the Iowa State Fair livestock shows are sold annually during the last Saturday of the fair. The 16 winning exhibitors are asked to raise funds from their hometowns, and then buyers from across the nation put in the remaining funds.

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Phoebe Sanders with her 2021 Grand Champion FFA Market Lamb.

“What I love about Iowa and agriculture is you’ll find an outpouring support of people who want to see you succeed,” says Phoebe, who is a junior in Agricultural Business at Iowa State University where she is active in Block & Bridle and Ag Business Club. “I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve received. This year we raised $11,000 to put toward buying my market lamb. Fareway and Lettow Show Pigs paid the remainder of the selling price.”

The Winner’s Circle

Proceeds raised from the annual Sale of Champions fund scholarships offered by the Iowa Foundation for Agricultural Advancement (IFFA). To be eligible for a Winner’s Circle Scholarship, students must study agriculture in either a two-year college or four-year university in Iowa. Scholarship applications are typically due April 1, and recipients are invited to a picnic held the day of the Sale of Champions.

“My favorite part about leading the Iowa Foundation for Ag Advancement (IFAA) is the Sale of Champions and the academic support we are able to provide to students studying agriculture in Iowa,” says Andrew Lauver, IFAA president. “I love seeing the scholarship recipients line up to receive their scholarships and then viewing the families enter the ring with their champion animals to celebrate their successes through the sale of their animals.”

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The Grand Champion FFA Market Lamb, exhibited by Phoebe Sanders of Eagle Grove, set a new sheep record at $18,500.

Phoebe has been both a scholarship recipient and an exhibitor. She received a Winner’s Circle Scholarship in 2019, so she understands first-hand what a difference the IFFA scholarships make to students. She also has raised a significant amount of scholarship dollars for the past three years as she exhibited the Grand Champion FFA Market Lamb in both 2021 and 2020. In 2019, her market lamb was Iowa State Fair Reserve Grand Champion and also sold in the Sale of Champions.

As a Clarion – Goldfield – Dows FFA member, Phoebe started showing lambs seven years ago. She has one more year of state fair eligibility left.

“My favorite thing about the state fair is connecting with friends I haven’t seen for a whole year,” says Phoebe. “Showing animals has allowed me to make so many friends. I’m living in a house (at college) with six girls who I know from showing and none of them are from my hometown.”

Another benefit to showing livestock, says Phoebe, is developing confidence from being in the ring.

“I’m so grateful for my family and the support they give me. Growing up my brother, Denton, has been my mentor. One of my favorite memories was winning showmanship at the American Royal in Kansas City. My brother told me I had to do it even though I was reluctant, and I was glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone.”

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Phoebe Sanders in the show ring with her market lamb.

Phoebe adds, “My advice for anyone showing an animal is to make connections and work hard because people will notice that. My family’s motto is to do our chores the best that we can and to work with our animals the best we can. After that, it’s just one man’s opinion.”

That work ethic is paying off for Phoebe both academically and professionally. This summer she worked under grain merchandisers at Gold Eagle Co-op. She also worked as an intern at Rule Sheep Co. in Hawarden. During the summer of 2020, she interned with ISU Extension and Outreach in Wright County. After graduation, Phoebe would like to work in grain merchandising or in ag sales.

In celebration of Phoebe’s Grand Champion Market Lamb, today we’re sharing a recipe from the Iowa Sheep Industry Association’s chili cookoff.

Lamb Chili

Recipe by Iowa Sheep Industry Association


  • Any type of dried pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 to 5 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. Liquid smoke
  • 28 oz can of Brooks chili beans
  • 1 to 2 quarts canned tomatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2-3 Tbsp. cumin
  • Ground cayenne to taste
  • Tabasco sauce as desired


Day 1

  1. Reconstitute the dried pepper in water and then bring the liquid down to a concentrate (the type of dried pepper used will depend upon the amount of spice you want).
  2. While that is reducing, cut up the bell pepper, garlic, and onion. Place in a large bowl with the meat.
  3. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire, liquid smoke and liquid from prepared pepper concentrate.
  4. Next, dig in and mix; the mixture should look wet but not soupy. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours. You want the marinade to get into the meat.

Day 2

  1. Fry ground lamb in batches; place in a crock-pot.
  2. Add chili beans, 1 qt of tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper.
  3. Set crockpot on high for a few hours; turn it down to low and cook for a couple more hours.
  4. Taste throughout cooking and add chili powder and cumin as needed.