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AgPack Strong: Flying High with AGI Grad

Jacob Tarlton in a field with his helicopter.
Jacob Tarlton not only farms, he also runs Tarlton Helicopters, a crop spraying service in Union County.

Ag Institute graduate turns dreams into a growing farming and flying business

It’s been less than a year since Jacob Tarlton graduated from NC State University’s Agricultural Institute, but the young farmer is already living his dream.

On the ground, he’s growing 170 acres of soybeans and tending 85 head of beef cattle, and, in the air, he’s running a new crop spraying business. In August, Tarlton bought a helicopter and began offering services to farmers and others.

He says that using a helicopter for spraying allows for better and more accurate coverage, especially in small, irregular fields.

While farming was a hobby for his father, from an early age Tarlton knew he wanted to make it a career. He was homeschooled on the small cattle farm his father owned in Marshville, and, as a teenager, he secured loans through the U.S. Farm Service Agency to gradually grow his farm.

Tarlton hadn’t thought much about college, but a neighbor who’d gone to the Agricultural Institute encouraged him to consider the two-year program.

He was surprised at how small the institute seemed. “Having been homeschooled, it was a shock to me to come to college, but the Ag Institute felt like a small community. Everybody knows everybody in the Ag Institute, and that made me feel more at home,” he says.

Coming home from school every weekend allowed Tarlton to apply what he’d learned in the classroom to the real-world scenarios playing out on his farm.

But the real learning, he says, took place outside the classroom — when he was able to visit with professors in their offices to ask questions and learn more.

“It really comes down to relationships — being able to make connections, to talk to professors as well as farmers throughout North Carolina. That has been a tremendous help to me.”

Tarlton says he feels fortunate to, at a young age, have come so far with his farm and helicopter spraying business.

“Every day is different, so it feels like I live a couple different lives. There’s been a lot going on at once,” he says. “But I feel blessed.”