John A. Snively Sr. (1889-1958)
Haven-Villa & Hundred Lakes Corporation
Polk Packing Company
Snively Groves, Inc.
Florida Citrus Mutual
Florida Citrus Exchange
Born in in 1889 in Shellburg, Pennsylvania, John Snively came to Winter Haven in 1911 as a fertilizer salesman. Through hard work and thrift he purchased his first grove shortly thereafter, shortly before the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. Buying and selling always at a profit, he and others organized Haven-Villa and Hundred Lakes Corporation, selling building sites and groves. In 1934 when the inflated land values burst Snively had enough resources to start the Polk Packing Company, which later became Snively Groves Inc. The company became one of the largest fresh fruit, cannery, and concentrate plants of its day. It employed 1,500 people and was Winter Haven’s largest industry, as well as a leader among the independent growers.
Snively’s new business received a major boost during World War II, as the United States and other Allied governments became large customers of Florida citrus. Those customers would pay high prices for as much citrus as a company could ship. They were not particular about quality, size or grade. This allowed Snively Groves Inc. to become extremely prosperous during that time period. At the end of the war however, those market conditions no longer existed and Snively knew that the citrus industry needed to change to the new conditions. Also at that time the citrus industry experienced severe market fluctuations. At times citrus prices did not even cover the cost of production and growers began losing money.
Snively called for Florida citrus growers to organize. He believed through increased cooperation and organization growers could increase the demand for their product thus making the industry more profitable. He also believed that organization would ensure that quality standards would increase and that customers would receive greater satisfaction from the product. In September of 1948 in a speech published in the The Citrus Industry, Snively noted that “Practically every grower and the shipper in the state are talking about organization. If we forget all our pet ideas and talk organization and organization only, then will we can have a unified industry center to which we can take our ideas on grades, pound selling, advertising, marketing, merchandising, sales promotion and everything else. An organization can put the good ideas to work and discard those that are not good for the industry. There is no other answer to our problems that organization–control of shipments of our fruits, we must have orderly marketing. We need some system other than that employed by volume hogs and price cutters. If we don’t want to organize, then let’s find it out right away, quit wasting a lot of time and see just how quick we can all go broke.” Through his efforts to organize and the power of his influence Florida Citrus Mutual was formed and was soon regarded as the most authoritative voices of the citrus industry. From that position as an organizer and leader he would be selected as President of the Florida Citrus Exchange. Snively remained active as a leader in the industry until his death in 1958.