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County Road 12: Tuskegee grad starts Harlem Comes to Cotton Farms

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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NOTASULGA, Ala. (WSFA) - Dr. Darren Spencer had never set foot in Alabama until he started his college career at Tuskegee University. After a year he wanted to go home. Life was too slow for this young man from Harlem, New York. There was nothing to do but go to school.

As it turns out, school is what changed his mind. He laughs when you ask him how Notasulga compares to Harlem.

“A lot slower, but a lot safer too,” said Dr. Spencer. “Growing up poor on concrete, I’m never going to let that happen again. I said we’re gonna have some land, have some grass and learn how to feed ourselves.”

So after graduation, Dr. Spencer found his forever farm in Notasulga. Now he works full time as a USDA veterinarian. He also puts in a lot of hours on his 80 acres, Harlem Comes to Cotton Farms. It’s not just a place for farming, it’s a place for learning.

Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee...
Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee University convinced him to stay forever and start up Harlem to Cotton Farms.(WSFA 12 News)

“My long term goal is to have a farm that’s self-sustaining and have students from elementary school to college getting some experience and learning how to be positive in themselves. The farm teaches you work basics. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

Alexondra Robinson will be graduating soon from Tuskegee University. She knew nothing about farm life until she came here.

“Doc has put me on a tractor,” said Robinson. “Doc put me out here with horses, goats and cows. I was afraid of bees and he put me in a bee suit and had me open hives.”

Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee...
Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee University convinced him to stay forever and start up Harlem to Cotton Farms.(WSFA 12 News)

“We’ve had students sheer sheep for the first time in their lives,” said Dr. Spencer.

“I don’t want to get emotional, but Doc has been like my farm dad,” said Robinson. “He has really given me an opportunity.”

Giving back is something that runs in the family.

“That’s what my dad did,” said Dr. Spencer. “That’s how I grew up. I get emotional but I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps.”

There’s nothing quite like his outdoor classroom.

Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee...
Dr. Darren Spencer grew up in Harlem and had never seen Alabama. But his time at Tuskegee University convinced him to stay forever and start up Harlem to Cotton Farms.(WSFA 12 News)

“There’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing them succeed. They come in suspicious and spooked and the next thing you know they are wrestling a goat like they are in the WWE.”

The New York accent may still be there, but Dr. Spencer is an Alabama man now. You can contact him by email at dstuskegee@gmail.com if you’d like to learn more about what he does.

Copyright 2021 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.