BY Amanda Brodhagen
The family business began in 1971 by Mike and Judy Snobelen. Mike Snobelen saw an opportunity to build a grain elevator business when he started farming on the fourth concession of Huron-Kinloss Township. While farming in the area was booming, farmers would often have to go quite a distance to sell their grain.
According to the company’s website where the business’s history is highlighted, Snobelen saw a problem: large elevators where roughly an hour away and that meant hiring trucks, which were expensive with 24-hour waits to unload. He did what most farmers would do – look for a solution. He decided to build a grain handling system on his home farm outside of Ripley.
“Snobelen Farms got its start at our Ripley location with just two bins and a commitment to grow and service local farmers producing grain,” said Jason Zondervan, Regional Operations Manager.
From two grain bins and two employees to today boasting eight elevator locations located across Southwestern Ontario: Lucknow, Dungannon, Ripley, Tiverton, Blyth, Brantford, Palmerston and a satellite location in Listowel which is a partnership with Berlett Farms all of which require about 60 employees to operate.
Snobelen Farms is a family-owned business that has stood the test of time over the last half a century. Farming has evolved and changed throughout the years and so too has Snobelen Farms. Snobelen Farms has grown over the years to include three divisions: commercial grain, food grade soybean export and the seed business.
While each location provides farmers in that area with much of the same services, some locations have specializations. All of the elevator locations receive commercial grain and IP soybeans with the exception of their Tiverton elevator, which doesn’t receive IP soybeans and the Palmerston location, which doesn’t receive commercial grain at this time.
The Lucknow and Palmerston Seed locations have cleaning, treating and packaging equipment for the seed business. Winter wheat, conventional soybeans and treated soybeans as well as spring grains and cover crops are offered. The Lucknow facility also processes, and packages food grade soybeans destined for export mostly to Japan, and the European market.
“Our goal has always been to provide exceptional products and service to our local farmers, local customers, as well as our customers abroad. Our employees have always been the foundation of our business and our great people allow us to provide our customers with unsurpassed service,” Zondervan said proudly.
It is a big year for Snobelen Farms marking a milestone of 50 years in business and the near completion of their state-of-the-art facility seed processing facility located in Palmerston which is awaiting a few final touches that will be completed soon.
Planning for this project began in November of 2018 when Snobelen Farms took over ownership of Bramhill Seeds in 2018. The location is strategic, with a large segment of their customer base located in the area with room for growth. The expansion is a result of recent growth in the company’s seed and export soybean business. Construction began summer of 2019 with the help of local contractors. Supporting local businesses and sourcing local supplies wherever possible, was important to the Snobelens.
“Being part of the design process from day one was exciting. I fondly remember Troy drawing on our whiteboard his ideas to how to move product throughout the plant while minimizing elevations. I think he would be proud of what we built here,” said Jodie Eadie, Seed Business Manager.
Mike’s son, Troy Snobelen, then president of Snobelen Farms passed away in a snowmobile accident February of 2019. Seeing the new Palmerston facility was part of his long-term vision for the company.
The world-class seed facility features a tower design to limit the number of elevations required to process and treat the seed. The industry-leading seed treater allows them to apply multiple products simultaneously with limited handling. The facility can simultaneously tote, bag and unload product through the bulk unload system. Reducing unnecessary handling was key in the plant design. The facility also has a new warehouse with two loading docks. IP growers in the Palmerston area can look forward to a new elevator leg and bins which are scheduled to be installed this summer.
“Most recently we completed the installation of our new automated packaging line in Palmerston,” said Jodie Eadie. “This piece of equipment was manufactured in Manitoba by the great folks at Ezratek. As with all other pieces of equipment we installed in the Palmerston facility, the automated packaging line will allow us to provide a quality bagged product for our customers more efficiently,” Eadie explained.
The Rural Voice had the opportunity to tour the Palmerston facility while taking the necessary safety precautions. The facility is bright with tall ceilings and a modern feel. Perhaps what was most impressive was witnessing the first skid be stacked by the new palletizer. The machine stacks bags in a forming cage to make a square pallet. The unit is operated by a touch screen display, which allows operators to switch up stacking recipes and can stack up to 10 bags per minute. Up until then, all the skids where stacked by hand, which is hard work.
“Our continued success in the agriculture industry is a testament to the vision and commitment the Snobelen Family has shown to sustainable growth, providing exceptional customer service and producing a quality product,” said Eadie.
Due to the pandemic, the anniversary celebrations will look a little different, but Snobelen Farms wants to give a nod to their customers that have been loyal over the years. To give thanks, they plan to provide all customers with one of a kind 50th anniversary hats and jackets.
Snobelen Farms continued to operate as an independent, family-owned business specializing in the production, processing and sales of food grade soybeans, commercial grains and seed for markets locally and internationally.
Sam Snobelen and Tanya Leppington continue the family legacy alongside their employees.
When asked about the 50th anniversary Sam Snobelen, President of Snobelen Farms. said “he was proud for Snobelen Farms to celebrate 50 years in business. Great customers and a solid vision to serve those customers has brought us here today and will help us to continue to grow in the future”. ◊