Smack dab in the middle of Templeton, a 105-foot-high structure serves as an iconic reminder of the enduring character of a community. Templeton Feed & Grain has operated through 13 U.S. presidential administrations, wars, economic upheaval, has withstood earthquakes and even a major fire. Rod Hewitt, a 36-year member of the Templeton Fire Department, was working at his family-owned Hewitt’s Hardware store in 1979 when he heard a commotion outside.
“I laid fire hose at the hydrant in front of the hardware store at 5th and Main,” Rod said. “We’d bought a new engine but we had no ladder trucks then. Water from our hoses just bounced off the metal roof. It burned like a fuse up the side and the grain smoldered.”
Mutual aid agencies helped fight the blaze but it took a week to fully extinguish.
The 2003 San Simeon Earthquake further tested the structure’s mettle. Today, all remains sturdy. A slight lean serves as a souvenir of the 6.6 magnitude temblor.
Templeton heritage of family and local business
Tom Jermin Sr., who passed away in 2004, founded Templeton Feed & Grain in 1946. His son, Tom Jermin Jr. grew up in the business. Not counting a four-year Navy enlistment, Tom has worked it full-time since 1967. Tom’s wife, Bobbie, runs the office. They are parents to Laura, Tom, and Rick, who serves as operations manager and company vice president.
“The poured-in-place concrete portion of the building was constructed in 1912,” Tom said. “The granary is made of 2×6 Douglas fir, laid flat, and 50 tons of nails. About half of Templeton pounded nails to get it built. At one time, there was a drive-thru grocery and a dentist’s office in the corner, and in the 1920s, there was a Model B Ford garage.”
Thousands of tons of feed were manufactured in Templeton, including alfalfa meal, barley, wheat, and oats. Local farm commodities were gathered during the summer harvest for storage to last through winter. Tom recalls how they served 400 area dairies when turkey feed was a chief commodity, and plums and almonds were among the area’s top crops.
“Atascadero had a turkey processing plant on Traffic Way,” Tom said. “We supplied feed several flocks in Pozo, Parkfield, Paradise Valley, and Nipomo — that’s about 100,000 turkeys per flock. Back then, ten percent was sold through the front door and 90 percent was sold out the back. Now, it’s the opposite.”
In 2018, Tom sold 3,000 tons of product. Surprisingly, 1,800 tons of that was rabbit feed, mostly for show rabbits (who knew?). Among his sales were 1,300 tons of barley, including 60 tons of seed barley for vineyard cover crops and erosion control, 40 tons of wheat and 28 tons of oats — all sourced through local farms. Tom also sold 360 tons of alfalfa grown in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
“We take pride in our 73 years of operation,” Tom said. “All our grain purchases with local farmers has been done on a handshake. No written contracts.”
Little is mentioned of continued sponsorship that the Jermin family provides to area FFA, youth sports, and events “Dad was private about that,” Tom said. Equally tangible are the green and white hats that match nicely with Templeton’s school colors.
“We sell 5,000 to 6,000 hats and beanies a year at cost for $6,” Tom said. Many were worn by soldiers during Operation Desert Storm and one Templeton High senior class chose them as gifts for their graduates.
Tom heard of two hat-wearers who ran into one another while visiting the Great Wall of China. Thus far, at least five locals have even been buried with their green hats as an essential part of their heavenly journeys.
Templeton Feed & Grain at 405 South Main Street in Templeton is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri. and 7 a.m. to Noon on Saturday. Call (805) 434-1136.