Q&A: Alex Templeton, Midwest farmer and rancher

Alex Templeton doesn’t miss a hair appointment. At any given time, there are three to four salon visits on her calendar to make sure her signature long, platinum blonde locks are in tiptop shape. 

“I love fashion, and I love getting dressed up. I’m super into hair and make-up trends. That’s what makes me me, and makes me happy,” she says.

But, getting “covered in hydraulic oil and cow poop” farming and ranching with her family is just as much a part of who she is. With social media and a good sense of humor, Templeton shares it all while raising crops and cattle across several Missouri and Iowa counties.

SF: Tell me how you got started.

AT: My dad and I run a cow, calf operation, and then we have also got into breeding heifers. I’ve always known that I wanted to work on the farm and the ranch. It’s literally all I’ve ever done. The only job I’ve ever had is working with my family farming and running cows.

It’s always been a dream of mine to work alongside my family, own my own ground, and own my own cows. One step at a time, I’m making those goals happen and checking those things off my bucket list.

SF: What are some of your biggest accomplishments since coming back to the farm full time.

AT: If I had to pick one thing, it’s my working relationship with my dad and my family. When I first graduated college, I knew I wanted to come back. My parents and family were super supportive. We knew that if I wanted to try to make a go at this, I needed to do it right then, while I’m young, not married, no kids. 

But, I didn’t get to just waltz in and then get cows and a farm and get to do everything. It took many steps and a lot of time. I had to build a working relationship with my family and earn my dad’s respect in a new light, not only as his daughter, but as his business partner. I’m super proud of our accomplishments together and our relationship. We have a ton of fun together.

SF: What are things you guys have done to make that new dimension of your relationship successful?

AT: I helped in high school, and really my whole life growing up. In college I would come home and help. But when I came back to work full time, he really made me re-earn his respect. Going through those steps instead of just waltzing in and him saying, ‘Well, here’s everything.’ really affected our relationship positively. Looking back, it’s important to me that he handled it that way.

There used to be a time when we were working together, when I was younger, that my opinion didn’t hold the weight that it does now. I had to prove that I was serious about this, and that I wanted it. Now, when I have something to say, my dad listens, and we work together. Just as many times as I call him asking for his opinion, he’s calling me saying, ‘what do you think about these cows? Do you think this is a good buy on these calves?’ It’s super important to me that we work alongside each other, not one of us in front of the other.

Alex Templeton looks at her cattle on a snowy day

But, working with family can be hard. We definitely butt heads. We’ve all heard the phrase, don’t take anything to heart that is said when you’re working cows. If you can work cows together, you can do just about anything together.

Setting boundaries has been important for us, too. We each have defined goals and priorities. I know he’s going to do what he needs to do, and he knows I’m going to do what I need to. We trust one another to do things right and to the best of our abilities.

SF: How do you balance the content you share on social media with your full-time job on the farm? How does that work with your dad?

AT: I don’t think of myself as a person of influence. I’m just a random girl that’s talking about what we do at work. But when I take a step back, it’s pretty incredible I’ve become a resource to a lot of people to let them have an inside look into modern agriculture. I don’t take it lightly, but I definitely try to keep my stuff lighthearted and show that we enjoy our livelihood. We take care of our livestock to the best of our abilities and everything we do is with their best interests in mind.

One day, about four years ago, my dad and I were driving around feeding cows. I was sitting in the buddy seat. We were talking about feeding some silage hay. I posted on Instagram, ‘Dad, tell us why we’re feeding silage?’ And he gave a high-level explanation. When I posted it, I said ‘Ag Talk with Alex,’ as a joke. Then, my direct messages blew up saying, ‘Give us more ag talk. More ag talk!’ Now I use that hashtag on my Instagram account.

This past year I decided I was going to start a website and blog. I called it AgTalkWithAlex.com, and it’s been a super fun way to go more in depth about things we do. 

I don’t put pressure on myself to create something to share every day. Not everything I post has a super drawn out, extensive caption. It’s just about my life.

As a woman in agriculture, I get so many messages from other women saying, ‘I love what you guys do. I work with my dad.’ Messages like that are my absolute favorite. I think it’s important to show that I’m unmarried, I have no kids, I’m doing this on my own, and you can do it too. I think there’s a little bit of a stereotype that you have to marry someone in agriculture, as a woman. Or that you can’t do it by yourself. It’s often a husband and wife type of gig, and I love that. But, I’m unmarried, have no kids, and I bought my own farm and I have my own cows.

No one in my family has ever treated me like I can’t do something because I’m a woman. There’s no time for that. On the cattle side of our business, there’s no time for ‘Get back, this is too dangerous because you’re a girl.’ Everything my dad does, I do.

Midwest farmer rancher Alex Templeton works on a Can-Am UTV on her family's ranch

SF: You’re an example for women in agriculture and other young farmers. Who has been a role model for you?

AT: My parents and my grandparents have been my role models. You need such a strong work ethic to be able to do something like this full time. You have to work your tail off for everything. That’s exactly what my parents, grandparents, aunt, and uncle have done. To see that they’ve worked their entire lives to build something that has place for me, I know I’m incredibly blessed.

I don’t talk about her a lot on my Instagram, but my mom helps us so much in our farming and ranching operation. I have sisters and nieces, too, but I keep a lot of my family off of social media because I don’t want creepy people messaging about them.

I’d say my main role model though, is my dad. He’s just the coolest guy in the entire world. He has the best sense of humor and we have a blast together. He works so hard. If I have half of his work ethic, I’ll be okay. I’ve never seen anybody so dedicated.

Farmer rancher Alex Templeton sits in a red truck wearing a cowboy hat and holding a mug of coffee

SF: It sounds like you have a great support system. Have these people shared any advice or wisdom that runs through your mind when things are tough?

AT: There’s not necessarily one line that comes to mind, but my dad doesn’t cut me any slack. That can be frustrating, but I think that comes back to I don’t get any breaks just because I’m a girl. I work right alongside him every single day and he’s always pushed me to work harder and stay hungry to try to expand and grow. Always be in the mindset of asking, ‘what can we do better?’

That’s something I’m super proud of because the worst thing you can do is say, ‘Well, that’s how my dad did it, so that’s how we’re going to do it.’ Or, ‘That’s how we’ve always done something, so that’s how we’re going to keep doing it.’ That can kill your operation faster than anything, so we’re always looking to improve and try new things.

That’s one thing that’s cool about Instagram is I get feedback from people who run cows and farm from all over the nation. If I have a question about something, I’ll post it on my Instagram. We’ve actually changed things that we do in our operation based on advice I’ve gotten from random strangers online.

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