Many of us aren’t able to be full-scale participants in our surrounding landscape. Alex Templeton, however, is that and more.
Leatherman ambassador Alex Templeton is kind, thoughtful, and funny. She’s also hardworking and multifaceted. There’s an all-encompassing effort behind how Templeton interacts with her home ecosystem.
In our conversation with her, we at GearJunkie came to understand that the labels “farmer,” “rancher,” and “hunter” were deeply related: In fact, one doesn’t exist without the others.
We talked with Templeton and discussed her life on the ranch and beyond.
Alex Templeton: Farmer, Rancher, Hunter
GearJunkie: How did you come into your current life as a full-time farmer and rancher?
Templeton: Growing up, I was really involved in farming and ranching. But I had so much going on with school and sports that I only did the things that I wanted to do.
As I got into my teens, I started involving myself more in the business side. And when I left for college, I knew I wanted to come back and work with my dad.
This is a family business, and it’s generational; I’m the third generation on our ranch. Thankfully, my parents never forced me into it. They supported me in anything that I wanted to do.
It was tough right off the bat. Before it was a hobby, but now I’m trying to make a living. There’s been a big learning curve, and there was certainly a time when my opinion didn’t matter. I had to earn my spot and my father’s respect.
It’s really turned into my business as well, and my dad and I are business partners. I don’t view it as working for him. Instead, I work with him. It’s really rewarding.
Do you see a lot of young people coming back to work their family farms in your neck of the woods?
In rural Missouri, there are people who do come back to the farm and work. But there aren’t a lot of people my age that do what I’m doing full-time.
I’m very fortunate that what my dad has built can now support me. Everyone in my community is connected to agriculture somehow, but none of my friends really farm and ranch. I definitely feel isolated out here sometimes.
When I travel around to cities, I’m like, “Gosh, I’ve turned into an old lady.” My little sister just moved to NYC, and when I visit, it’s fun but overwhelming.
How do you manage the land for both agriculture and hunting?
It’s been kind of cool because I manage places today that the generations of my family have hunted. I really have full control of most of the land that I hunt, and I’m really lucky to have private land to hunt.
Really, there’s no direct line between where farming and ranching end and hunting begins for us. It’s always been like that. There’s never been a time where we weren’t thinking about the whitetails. When I was young, I didn’t really know what we were doing, but the generations above me were taking care of it.
One thing that I think is cool is that a lot of the conservation work we do isn’t only about growing big whitetail, we’re also thinking about our other wildlife as well. Leaving intentional strips of grass around field edges for quail has nothing to do with a big deer, but big deer do benefit from that.
How do public land and private land intersect where you live?
Pretty much everything around here is private land, but 70 percent of the ground around here is private. The ground is different here than it is out West. You don’t just grow soybeans in northern Montana.
In the big picture of things, land management rests on the individual property manager. But every state has government-managed programs that encourage private landowners to cultivate habitat.
Programs like the Conservation Reserve Program pay farmers to cultivate natural habitat for wildlife on their properties. Other programs are out there as well.
But, in the case of poor management, it can be a little frustrating to neighbor private land. If your neighbor is up the hill from you and doesn’t properly farm his ground, the erosion can affect your property. It can be a hassle.
When did you start bowhunting, and what shape does hunting take on the ranch?
I started bowhunting when I was 18 or 19. I’ve been rifle hunting my entire life, and the only reason I started bowhunting was to extend my season. Of course, there are other reasons, but that’s definitely the main one.
Hunting for me isn’t about filling the freezer, and that’s not what it’s about for us as a family. We raise beef cattle for a living, and there’s plenty of red meat around here. We still love wild game, and we do eat it. We turn it into jerky, snack sticks, and burger.
But really, these days, shooting old, mature deer is my favorite thing. We’ve been working for three generations to manage for mature whitetails, so to have that kind of success is a different kind of payoff. It’s a whole process. Deer season doesn’t just start when bowhunting season begins.
Life on the ranch means you’re both ranching and hunting animals for the table. How does that look for you personally?
I’m still in that stage of wanting to kill a big whitetail buck — it’s a big rush for me. People try to take away from the fact that killing is a part of hunting, but it certainly is. And if I don’t fill my tag at the end of the day, then I didn’t have a successful hunt.
I don’t want to say that I’m not saddened by the death of an animal, because I am. But it’s my job to give these animals a good life until it’s their time to find their way to the table, and that goes for our farm animals and whitetails alike.
And really, the best thing I can do for deer is to take a good shot and make their death quick. That’s my goal every time.
How did your Instagram hashtag #AgTalkWithAlex come about?
I always share little tidbits and bits and pieces of what we do on the ranch, and one day I just hashtagged #AgTalkWithAlex. Since then, so many people have gotten into it. It’s been kinda cool.
With Instagram and social media overall, I have no plan. I want to show people my real life and share these stories, and it is really cool that people are drawn to the agricultural education aspect of that.
Farming and ranching are so different all across the states. We do something one way in Missouri, but in Georgia, they’ll do it in an entirely different way.
Just by posting #AgTalkwithAlex, I’ve learned so much from other farmers and ranchers in my community that have shared how things have worked for them.
And sometimes, I’m able to implement different things that work better on the ranch because of this community. It’s awesome.
What are the upsides and downsides to your experience with social media?
Thankfully, I really don’t get hate messages. I don’t want that to happen, but it’s nice that it doesn’t. People are cool on social media, and they’re super-receptive to how we’re doing things out here in Missouri. It’s a cool relationship to have with complete strangers.
My favorite thing is when people send me messages about how their kids love watching videos with cows. There are a lot of people who aren’t lucky enough to understand where their food comes from, and there’s so much information that people don’t know about when it comes to agriculture. It’s fun to connect them back to it.
What thought do you want to leave everyone with?
The gender roles are really switching in hunting and agriculture; it’s not just a man’s world anymore. And I’m lucky and thankful to be involved on both sides of it.
It’s fun to see this message of more women getting involved spreading across social media, and it’s been exciting to see so many hunting companies create technical hunting gear specifically for women. Oftentimes, that gear gives women the ability to explore new opportunities.
It really is an exciting time for all of us involved, and it’s cool to see it only getting better.
This article is sponsored by Leatherman.