Long-time GFA grounds manager Tom Barry was named as the New England Sports Turf Managers Association (NESTMA) 2020 Sports Turf Manager of the Year. Barry's award was formalized in a ceremony that took place at the at NESTMA’s Members’ Meeting & Awards Lunch on March 4 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.
"To be awarded New England Sports Turf Manager of the Year to me is the highest honor," Barry said. "To be recognized, amongst so many talented individuals, is such a humbling experience. This is especially meaningful to me because I love doing what I do. Greens Farms Academy has been the platform for me to be able to be recognized, and I am extremely thankful to GFA and my supportive team."
Barry joined GFA in 2013, but has been working in his field since he was 13, starting out on the grounds crew of an 18-hole golf course. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a master's degree in Turfgrass Management, then took his degree to Hawaii, where he worked at the Wailea Blue Golf Course in Maui. After three years, he moved back east and began working at Read Custom Soils. where he made his GFA connection: Neil Champagne, the facilities director at Greens Farms Academy. Champagne told Barry about an opening at the school, and the rest came together quickly.
At GFA, Barry manages 45 acres of grounds, including three natural grass multi-use fields, two artificial turf fields, general lawn areas, landscape beds, pollinator gardens and all hard-scaped areas "with a crew of four."
While at GFA, Barry has also reached out to the community through blog entries about care and maintenance of lawns and turf, tips on growing without the use of pesticides, and insight into grafting and pruning the school's iconic apple trees, among many other topics. He also teaches Upper School courses in regenerative landscaping. Barry is also an adjunct professor at Naugatuck Valley Community College in the Horticulture Department.
Barry attributes his success to strong mentoring he received in college. His advisor instilled in him words that continue to ring true: "Never say no to an opportunity."
Barry explained, "That really stuck with me and I tried to follow that. For me this included, teaching opportunities, meeting other industry members, being a guest speaker at events, and many other opportunities. By not saying no to these different opportunities, I believe I have gotten to where I am today."
He also explained that he gets great motivation from working at GFA, a place that prioritizes and actively practices sustainability.
"I am very passionate about sustainability and being at a school where pesticides are not allowed for use. I think the game-changer technology is one that reduces reliance on pesticides," he said. "I feel so incredibly lucky to work in a career that I can look forward to going to work and to get recognized in this capacity means the world to me."
To see Barry's award acceptance speech, click here.