When Clell Agler of Grove City heard he was to receive one of the Ohio Poultry Association's most prestigious awards you could have

When Clell Agler of Grove City heard he was to receive one of the Ohio Poultry Association's most prestigious awards you could have

Wait for it

Knocked him over

Here it comes

With a

Ready?

Feather.

McClelland Agler, who knows a good egg when he sees one, is a good egg, in the opinion of Ohio Poultry Association executives, and so they presented him with their Golden Egg Award.

"Quite a shock, quite an honor," Agler said last week.

It was all the more of a shock and an honor, he added, coming from an organization that's mostly concerned with the commercial aspects of the state's poultry industry, which employs more than 5,000 people and has a payroll in excess of $50-million a year.

It's the first time, as far as Agler knows, that someone from the exhibitor side of the equation has received the Golden Egg.

"This was a tremendous award," he said. "I can't tell you how excited I was."

At least back into the 1960s and possibly beyond, the Golden Egg has gone to people in the commercial end of the chicken-and-egg equation, according to Jim Chakeres, executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association.

"It's somewhat of a rarity for someone who works in exhibition to be honored by the commercial industry," he said.

"The Golden Egg Award recognizes individuals who are committed to advancing the mission and values of the state's poultry producers," according to the association's announcement. "This year's award goes to Clell Agler of Grove City for his dedication to Ohio's poultry industry. For almost half a century, he has exhibited poultry at the Ohio State Fair and various poultry shows across the United States and Canada. The 2008 Ohio State Fair will mark Agler's 25th year serving as the poultry superintendent. Additionally, he has served as an officer of the Ohio Breeders Association for more than 38 years."

Clell Agler is obviously no spring chicken; poultry first pecked its way into his life when he was 9 years old and he became involved in a 4-H livestock club in the Mifflin area of Columbus.

That means, by his estimate, that he looks back on 55 years of growing and showing mostly chickens, although it was turkeys that he first took to the Franklin County Fair. That means the ways of chickens, their reasons for crossing roads and which came first, them or eggs, hold no mysteries for Clell Agler.

"After 55 years, you pretty much don't get surprised," he said.

Agler, who moved to Grove City in 1989, estimates that he has raised about 40,000 chickens in the course of his career, "give or take." As a youth, he settled on specializing in Rhode Island Reds and Light Brown Leghorns.

"The first thing you want to do in showing is find a breed you like," Agler said.

While he still thrills to a judge reaching into a cage and pronouncing one of his prize birds a prize winner ("I still like winning. Winning is fun.") watching them hatch into the world and grow into maturity is what truly tickles him.

"The most enjoyable part is raising chickens and seeing them grow," Agler said.

After all, chickens must be fed 365 days a year but they are shown only around two dozen times at the most.

"So you better like having chickens at home," Agler said.

Ohio is "blessed," in Agler's view, by a strong and ongoing spirit of cooperation between the commercial growers and people who simply enjoy exhibiting birds.

"We all work so well together," he said.

That's not the case in many states.

"It's war, and it's stupid," Agler said bluntly. "We're blessed."

Agler's receiving the Golden Egg Award is in part recognition of that spirit of cooperation, according to the Ohio Poultry Association's Chakeres.

"We think it's critically important, given bio-security today and avian diseases, that both of our sectors work together," he said. "I think we both see the big picture. We need those exhibitors, we need the backyard people, we need the 4-H clubs, to produce the next generation of the poultry industry.

"And Clell and his group realize we need a safe and wholesome product to help feed a hungry world."

Speaking of feeding, Agler is far from tired of the main product of his 150 or so flock.

"I like eggs," he said simply.

He's also far from weary of continuing to exhibit his birds and to serve as a judge all over the country.

"It's still a lot of fun," Agler said. "You meet a lot of great people, all different kinds of people."