After nearly a century of serving local farmers, the Moose Lake Co-op will be shutting down, leaving more than 20 people without a job.
"When you talk about the loss of a business like the Moose Lake Co-Op, really it doesn't just serve Moose Lake, it serves the entire area," said Tim Peterson, Moose Lake city administrator.
The business recently announced plans to close, due to a declining farming industry in the area, and economic hardship.
"This is really just a reflection of what's happened in the ag community. The bread and butter of the cooperative has been the feed mill. Thirty years ago, there were 25 or 30 dairies that the cooperative supported, now we're down to 7 dairies," said Joel Marcott, CEO & general manager of the co-op.
In 2016 the business posted a financial loss of nearly $300,000.
"The situation was driven by mounting debt, and continued operations losses," said Marcott.
Historically, the cooperative has relied on patronage from the regional cooperative, CHS, to survive - but this year, they posted a loss, as well.
Marcott said, "With CHS's loss, they are making the decision that they are not going to be paying patronage out to the smaller cooperatives. So, that was a significant financial loss for this cooperative."
Marcott, who's been on the job for 3 months, said the co-op is now in the process of liquidating their assets, and focused on retiring their debt.
"We're looking for partners to purchase some of our business assets, and there are several options on the table right now. We're hoping in the best case scenario, that perhaps the station will be left open under new ownership, or the country store. If that is not the case, we would project that most of our operations would be completely shut down by years end," Marcott said.
And farmers would be forced to travel nearly 40 miles for similar services.
The International Falls Farm and Garden location has been sold, but will remain open.
According to store officials, a definitive close date has not been determined, and the Cenex Service Station will continue to offer gasoline and diesel with reduced hours and staff.
The retail feed store will continue to operate with a limited staff in order to reduce inventory.
Store officials say all delivery service and bulk distribution of feed and fertilizer will end on November 30th, and operating hours will be posted at each location.
According to Marcott, the tire service department will be closed by the end of November, and all agronomy, feed and retail will originate at the feed store.
Marcott says the Askov location will remain open until the inventory is liquidated, and the coop office will reduce hours.
In addition, Marcott says a payment drop box will be located at the coop office, and local charge accounts will be suspended by the end of November, with all following transactions to be settled by credit card, cash, or check.
Customers who have account balances are encouraged to settle their statements as soon as possible.