Sharon Tregaskis | Spring 2017
Clad in a black, hooded stadium coat, insulated work pants and fleece-lined boots, SuzAnne Akhavan-Tafti ’91M.A. strides across the undulating winter pasture of Full Circle Organic Farm. “Come, baa,” she calls as she approaches a flock of ewes scattered across the leeward side of a gentle rise. “Come, baa.” Almost in unison, 300 heads pop up at the sound of her voice. “They’ll come circle around,” the shepherdess says as she turns her back to the flock. “They’re very curious.” But not quite curious enough on this blustery, December day to divert their attention from the rams in their midst.
Twenty-mile-per-hour gusts bite at Akhavan-Tafti’s high-tech garb as she smooths the pastel woolen cap pulled snug over her platinum-blond pixie cut. She scuffs at the ground with her toe and peers at the clover, timothy, native grasses and other species underfoot, doing a casual inventory of the buffet on which her ewes graze. It’s a gesture she witnessed as a child, summering at Bruce Fawcett Farm, the classic midcentury family enterprise across town in Howell, Michigan, where her grandparents raised beef cattle, dairy cows and hogs. There were also, of course, the obligatory flock of hens in the yard and kittens in the haymow.
“I learned a lot about quality of fodder, quality of hay, what’s good pasture and what isn’t, what’s overgrazed,” says the 63-year-old, who shadowed her grandmother feeding the calves, picking fruit and collecting eggs, then graduated to tending and showing horses. “My grandparents’ livestock weren’t given baths and brushed. They just had amazing nutrition. Animals with good environment and nutrition move well. They’re bright-eyed.”