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The Back Story

7 minute read

Mr. President, If You Please

A Letter of Introduction from Mark Podgwaite, American Poultry Association President

 

I was recently elected president of the American Poultry Association. I have been asked to present a bit about myself as well about the association.

 

I have been raising poultry for over 50 years and, along with my dad, showing since the early 1970s. I’m old enough to count some of the poultry greats of our time as friends, competitors, and mentors; and young enough to still relish those experiences which I will never forget. I remember like it was yesterday, listening to John Lightfoot talk about how to breed his vision of the perfect runner duck. 

 

Public service

My employment history includes over 35 years in business management, with 15 of those years in the nonprofit sector. Currently, I am the executive director of nonprofit corporation in Central Vermont. This experience has given me the opportunity to serve on many local, state and national committees as well as to hold several offices on these boards over the years. 

 

This involvement has provided me the understanding that associations such as the American Poultry Association are member-driven and must keep the needs of the membership in the forefront at all times. The Constitution and Bylaws provide the framework, but the wants and needs of the membership should always be heard. I am happy to report that the APA has embraced this ideal, as is evident by the unprecedented growth and prosperity the APA is currently enjoying.

 

I have served the membership of the American Poultry Association (APA) going on 10 years, first as District 1 Director, then as Vice President, and now President. 

Mark Podgwaite and Cochin

I feel very honored to be elected to this position and most humbled to join the elite list of APA Presidents. I have always been in awe of these folks. 

 

Can you imagine William Churchman, one of the APA’s founding fathers and its first president, pulling this all together with no phone or internet? Or Vi Halbach our first (and currently only) female president (1994-1998)?

 

A solid foundation

The APA is enjoying unprecedented growth and prosperity. The former officers and directors of the APA worked extremely hard serving the membership and promoting the APA. They certainly raised the bar in terms of providing for the membership as well as the association. 

 

Dave Anderson applied his business skills to restoring the APA’s finances to stability. John Monaco led the APA to apply digital technology to keeping records of points won. The current officers and directors are an equally dedicated bunch committed to the future of the APA as well as exhibition poultry in general. Since the election, they have jumped right in handling various duties.

 

The APA cannot rest on its laurels; we must continue to embrace our members’ input; we must continually research technology and apply it where it will benefit the APA and its members; and we must maintain our status as the go-to organization in the exhibition poultry world. 

 

We have expanded member services, have instituted the MemberPlanet membership service program, and the Yearbook is becoming the ultimate resource of standard bred poultry. But there is so much more to do. We need to explore the feasibility of offering the Standard of Perfection in different formats. An electronic version might be a benefit to the membership, but needs to be safeguarded to avoid losing copyright protection that is a hallmark of the APA’s high standards. This will not be an easy task. 

 

We need to continue to expand our work with and promote the youth in this hobby – after all, they are the future. The Youth Exhibition Poultry Association (YEPA) is enjoying a resurgence in popularity but is in need of a dedicated leader to allow Doris Robinson to retire. Doris has done a tremendous amount of work with the youth program over the years. She will be a tough act to follow. The APA supports YEPA, which helps young people learn the skills they will need to succeed at breeding and showing Standard bred poultry. Those skills will serve them in their lives and as future APA leaders.

 

And we cannot forget one of the big ones – the celebration of the APA’s 150th Anniversary in 2023. We plan to offer a variety of keepsakes during this yearlong celebration including special pins or commemorative gifts to all who exhibit their chickens at APA-sanctioned shows that year. We’ll hold a special banquet, with members who attended the 100th anniversary dinner in 1973 honored as special guests. 

 

The APA is raising money to support this festive celebration through donations and events. Live bird auctions have already raised over $15,000 for that cause. 

 

The APA is blessed with a team of officers and directors who firmly believe in the Association, its foundation, and its mission. We need to keep this organization moving in a positive direction. 

Chicken browsingThe APA’s history

Are you new to the chicken world? Let me give you a little background on exhibition poultry and the American Poultry Association.

 

The APA History Site tells us the first organized poultry exhibit was held at the Boston Public Garden on the 15th and 16th of November 1849. The show was primarily organized by Dr. J. C. Bennett, of Plymouth, Massachusetts and a committee of many.

 

The show attracted approximately 1400 entries of purebred birds and barnyard mixes as well as regional fowls of all descriptions. It is estimated that over 10,000 people attended the two-day event which was, in some respects, a disaster. Certainly not a disaster in terms of popularity or public appeal, but in terms of judging the fowl, as there was no standard to against which to judge them. Therefore, the notion of judging this event was abandoned. 

 

Poultry exhibits became extremely popular across the country during this period. The APA History Page  discusses the formation of the APA:

 

Mr. William H. Churchman, of Wilmington, Delaware, the first President, writes under date of November 30, 1898:

 

“If my memory serves me, I talked the matter of forming an American Association at two or three poultry exhibitions and succeeded in getting about fifteen of the principal exhibitors interested in the matter, and we held an informal meeting in the spring of 1873, when a committee was appointed to take the matter in hand, and if found advisable to make a call to all interested to meet that fall for the purpose of organizing an American Poultry Association. I was chairman of the committee and made the call for organization, which took place in Buffalo in the early part of December 1873. My memory is good on the subject of membership, as on the day of my arrival home in December, 1873, I had two hundred certificates of member- ship printed and filled in one for myself, and the next day went to Philadelphia and handed the certificate with ten dollars to Joseph M. Wade, and he wrote his signature thereon, the same that I now enclose. 

(Signed) WM. H. CHURCHMAN

 

That December 1873 date makes the APA the oldest livestock organization in North America.

 

APA holds to high standards

The APA continues the mission begun in 1873 to ensure the betterment of exhibition poultry. It’s a mission we take very seriously. In addition to the member benefits the APA offers, we have a judge’s licensing program and publish the “Standard of Perfection”—which is the poultry judge’s bible.

 

Judges take years to learn about every breed in the Standard. The APA sets a high bar. Every person who earns certification as an APA judge is an accomplished expert. They are also a fine group of people, always willing to reach out and help others learn about the poultry that is their passion.

 

The Standard of Perfection, now in its 44th edition, “is the culmination of scientific facts and the result of knowledge and experience gained during the more than one hundred and forty years that the American Poultry Association has been compiling and publishing a Standard for domestic poultry,” it says in its preface. We carry on a proud tradition in it. The Standard is constantly under review and revision by the APA’s Standard Revision Committee. 

 

Exhibition poultry today

The exhibition poultry world is a fascinating one. It attracts people from far and wide. People of all ages and backgrounds come together for one common goal; to raise, improve, and exhibit their chosen breed(s) and varieties of standard bred poultry. The friendships and comradery are second to none. We are all in this hobby with a common goal in mind; breeding the best bird one can breed. The opportunities presented to the junior exhibitors are many. APA-sanctioned shows often include special activities for young members, such as Quiz Bowls, showmanship, and poultry agility competitions. 

 

Interested in more information? Our newly redesigned website can be found at amerpoultryassn.com. 

 

Feel free to contact me at any time at mppoultry13@gmail.com, I would love to hear from you. 

 

Signed,

Podgwaite signature

 

 

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