Channing Snyder championed sustainable farming, served in Finland

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Channing Z. Snyder was committed for much of his life to environmentally sustainable approaches to farming and energy, as well as spreading the unifying message of Baha’u’llah since 1977. He combined these callings in his 10 years as a Baha’i pioneer in Finland.

Chan passed away October 30, 2012, having lived for many years on the Sweet Clover Farm in Eaton, New Hampshire. He was 59.

A letter of tribute from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States praised “Channing’s rich and purposeful life, spent in service to the betterment of the world and the promotion of the Cause of Baha’u’llah.”

The Regional Baha’i Council of the Northeastern States said in its own letter, “He was a model of commitment to the unity of the human race, exemplified by his ten years pioneering to Finland. … His noble and steadfast character was, for so many, a magnet. Soft-spoken and humble, dedicated to farming on the Sweet Clover Farm, he naturally possessed those qualities for which we all strive daily.”

Chan was born in 1952 in Miami, Florida. His upbringing was in Denmark until age 13, when his family moved to Concord, New Hampshire. He earned state high school championships in cross-country skiing and running, and his love of skiing, rock climbing and other outdoor activity was lifelong.

He studied soil chemistry at the University of New Hampshire and graduated with honors. He later added a master’s degree from Pacific Western University with emphases on environmental economics and renewable energy.

In his 20s he met Liza Thoms, a young mother who had accepted the Baha’i Faith while living in Portugal. They married and settled on her family’s farm.

On that home base, Chan threw himself into practice and experimentation in sustainably growing a variety of fruits and vegetables, while operating a chimney sweeping business. He served on the Conservation Commission of the Town of Eaton, and was a co-organizer of a local farmers’ market.

In 1984 the family moved to the lake district of eastern Finland to serve as pioneers, first in the small city of Varkaus and later in the village of Kolkontaipale. They shared Baha’u’llah’s message of world unity and equality with hundreds of people, by their own estimate, over those 10 years.

Chan worked by turns as an educator, an energy and environmental consultant to businesses, a researcher and lecturer.

Back in Eaton in 1994, he complemented his farm work though activity in solar power technology sales; outdoor guiding; cultural exchange; and education on the environment, forestry, alternative energy and English as a second language.

He returned to Finland for a visit for the Baha’i Faith in 2007, as well as serving the Faith locally.

Channing Snyder’s survivors include his wife, Liza Snyder; a daughter, Tahirih Lawot of Virginia; a son, Quddus Snyder of Pennsylvania; two stepdaughters, Ariadne de Carvalho of North Carolina and Catarina de Carvalho of California; a stepson, Anthony de Carvalho of France; four sisters, Sandra Balmes of France, Holly Snyder of Rhode Island, Wendy Snyder Soucie of Ohio and Robin Snyder of Oregon; a brother, Donald Snyder of Colorado; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother, Andrew Snyder.

Information from the Office of International Pioneering and the Concord Monitor