- It's hard to find farms in much of the Northwoods, and yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a major footprint in the region.
Randy Snow opened Snow's IGA grocery store in the small Iron County community of Mercer 19 years ago.
Business is good, but it's a challenge for a small store to survive against the big chains.
"With Target and Walmart, and all stores getting into the grocery side of the business, it's very, very tough to get some type of loyalty when a lot of things in today's market are based strictly on price point," Snow said. "It's a very competitive market and it is a struggle."
"These are smaller communities, they have fewer resources, they may be more singular in their economies," USDA Rural Development State Director Stan Gruszynski.
The USDA's Rural Development program works to build small towns and keep dollars in the local economy.
So with limited capital, when Snow wanted to expand his store to better serve customers, the USDA stepped in.
The agency backed a $1.6 million loan to Snow, who used it to double the size of his store.
It's one way the USDA is helping the Northwoods off the farm.
Story By: Ben Meyer