Inducted: October 28, 1992
Blake Snobelen fought the establishment of a marketing board for pork, but when he was convinced it was necessary, he became "one of the best chairmen in the history of the Ontario Pork Producers' Marketing Board."
Mr. Snobelen has called himself "a rebel," and few who encountered him during the early, stormy days of hog marketing would argue with that self-designation. When other Ontario counties voted in favour of a pork marketing plan, Kent County, with Mr. Snobelen as one of the spokesmen, opposed it. As an early associate said, "Blake Snobelen was always an individualist, and he didn't think he had to go the way everyone else did!"
Jack Chinnick, secretary of the Kent Pork Producers at the time of the vote, said that when the county was swept, unwillingly, into the plan, Kent directors were pro-plan. It was his suggestion that some of those opposing the marketing scheme should be named to the directorate, and Blake Snobelen was one of those chosen.
Mr. Snobelen's first bid to be elected Provincial Director for Lambton, Kent and Essex was defeated; but he was chosen in 1961, the beginning of more than a decade on the Board. In 1970, he became Chairman, where he did an outstanding job. One recollection from that time: "It took people like Blake, in an industry that was going through a hard time."
Mr. Snobelen learned early to stand up for himself, as one of 13 children, 12 of them boys, of John and Margaret (Campbell) Snobelen. He was a descendant of Joseph Snobelen, who came to Canada from Alsace, in France, early in the 19th century.
Mr. Snobelen received his schooling at S.S. No.2, Harwich Township. In his own words, he was "a graduate of the school of hard knocks." Mr. Snobelen started to work at an early age. At one time, he operated the third school bus to run in Kent County, using a bus built on the back of a truck to transport students to Wallaceburg Vocational School.
He became interested in the elevator and feed business, and, with Bernard Hind, operated a feed mill at 97 Centre Street in Chatham, later acquired by Chatham Beans. A mobile feed mill, which took grinding services to the farm, was an offshoot of that interest and the product of an innovative mind.
Mr. Snobelen operated an elevator at Thamesville, where he was remembered by Fenton Cryderman as "a good, fair guy to deal with," both in the elevator operation and in the subsequent sale of the business to Thamesville Co-op.
Mr. Snobelen then bought a farm in Camden Township, near Thamesville, the result of a long-standing ambition to farm. He first cleared the land, attempted irrigation with limited success and pioneered in the use of anhydrous ammonia.
When he decided to go into hog production to increase the farm's productivity, he moved into a new and interesting period of his life. Mr. Snobelen was one of the first to import meat-type hogs, a far-sighted move that anticipated the dietary concerns decades in the future. He was an innovator in the development of hog buildings and equipment.
One former neighbour said he was a man with a fertile and creative mind. "He was as smart as Henry Ford, if he had only gone to engineering school."
Mr. Snobelen attended St. Paul's United Church as a child; Thamesville United Church, as an adult. He now resides in Fergus. There are two children; Ron, a resident of London, and Joan, of Bright's Grove.