At just six years old, Mike Snobelen had his eyes opened to the world of grain elevators when he sat
shotgun with his dad to deliver wheat to his uncle Blake Snobelen’s elevator in Thamesville, Ontario.
“It was fascinating to see the platform hoist lift the old flat wagons and see grain disappear through a hole
in the ground,” says Mike, co-founder of Snobelen Farms.
The Right Mix in Ripley
Fast forward 20 years and Mike was farming on the fourth concession of Huron-Kinloss Township. At the
time, the right mix of opportunity made the prime conditions for a successful business in agriculture:
● New varieties of corn and soybeans were thriving in the area;
● Winter wheat surviving on newly tile-drained land.; and
● Local farmers looked to diversify from what had been a mainly livestock-based economy.
But there was one big problem. Too much crop and nowhere local to unload it. Large elevators were
nearly an hour away and that meant hiring trucks, which were expensive with 24-hour waits to unload.
Considering this challenge, Mike looked to build a system for his own grain in 1971.
“I started touring commercial elevators and looking for money. Ideas were easier to get than money,”
says Mike. “Eventually a bank came through and I built the first two grain bins at the home farm.”
Expanding to Lucknow
Snobelen Farms soon expanded, added bins and increased volumes at the Ripley elevator every year.
Mike wasn’t looking to expand the business, but in 1976, the right opportunity came across his desk and
Snobelen Farms took over Anderson Flax Products in Lucknow — a small business in feed, flax and seed
After expanding in Lucknow, the next ten years were the best and worst of times.
“We added more bins and bigger dryers, and there was always lots of volume,” says Mike.
Snobelen Farms went on to purchase 30 acres of land surrounding their Lucknow location, which allowed
for expansion to this day and some distance between neighbours.
Drying in Dungannon
In 1987, Snobelen Farms took over the Hodges Milling elevator in Dungannon, about 10 minutes south of
Lucknow, and doubled the size of the dryer and added more grain storage. A second, faster unloading pit
and a new dryer were added over the years.
Genetically modified (GMO) soybeans started to become popular in the mid ‘90s — GMO technology
started in the United States but Europe was slow to adopt. So in early 1997, Mike got a call British grain
broker wondering if Snobelen Farms would be interested in supplying non-GMO beans to Europe.
Soon after, ships full of Ontario soybeans started landing in Belgium and England, springboarding the
Snobelen Farms export division, which continues to ship to England to this day.
Mike attended the Food Ingredients Show in Paris every year, and just as European demand slowed in
2003, another opportunity presented itself.
“That year, I made a point of talking to every buyer who used soybeans in their process and leaving one
of our brochures,” says Mike. “I was home for about a week when I got a call from a buyer in Israel
wondering if we could supply a cargo of beans in about a month. It took four phone calls to get control of
what we needed to make that cargo.”
Everyone was smiling when the ship sailed, but none more than Mike.
“I find it hard to believe — but am very proud — that today we often take in more in a day than we took in the first year,” says Mike.