Pomfret School

"I get the most positive comments from the people that you'd expect to be the most critical- our coaches."

—Darren Moran, Pomfret School

In addition to New York’s Central Park, famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed more than 30 academic campuses during his long career. Today, one of those campuses – the Pomfret School – is entrusted to the care of Darren Moran.

Girls Lower Soccer Field, Pomfret School

However, when Moran arrived at the school five years ago, Pomfret’s grounds were not in a condition worthy of Olmsted.

“The fields were neglected,” Moran recalled. “There was very little agronomic planning. We were doing one application a year of weed preventive with a fertilizer mix. The fields were riddled with weeds and just poor turf.”

Hired as the athletics field groundskeeper, Darren Moran knew the elite private college preparatory boarding school founded in 1894 deserved better.

With all 350 students required to participate in three sports, Pomfret puts a heavy burden on its seven natural grass playing fields and two baseball diamonds. Outdoor team sports include baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, and softball, and the summer months are filled with instructional camps in baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer.

“The school had issues with playability condition and safety of footing,” said Moran. “Our fields were in unsafe condition.”

When Moran got a chance to take on the job of campus turf specialist three years ago, he jumped at it. But one of his big challenges was a lack of chemical and soil science knowledge.

Campus Sun Dial

“At the time, I wasn’t able to make informed decisions on pesticide use and soil fertility applications” he said. “I have a friend who’s a golf course superintendent and he was trying his best to help me out, but it just wasn’t enough. Then one day, Chris Kneale from Tom Irwin walked in and introduced himself.”

“I asked Chris a lot of questions that day,” Moran recalled. “He had very specific answers on how to go about things. I took some of his comments to my Athletic Director and he gave us the go-ahead to develop an agronomic improvement plan for our fields.”

But Chris Kneale provided much more than chemical and fertility advice.“Having been the Grounds Superintendent at Bentley University and the Athletic Fields Manager at Wellsley College, Chris helped me to understand what grounds equipment best fit our needs and how to use it properly,” said Moran. “He pointed me to a great licensed applicator for pesticides and herbicides. And he came by once a week – every week – to help me through it.”

Before long, the Pomfret School athletic fields were greening up nicely. “I saw results immediately after my first spring application,” Moran noted. “And it only got better from there.”

Darren Moran’s expertise has grown, as well. He has attended Tom Irwin’s Soil Academy several times and is putting that knowledge to good use.

“I’ve started to seed in some better varieties of turf grasses into our fields,” he said. “This will be the second year I’ve planned to overseed all of our turf fields.”

The turf improvements also help to burnish the school’s elite status. But prospective students and their families are not the only ones who appreciate Pomfret’s lush acreage.

“I get the most positive comments from people that you’d expect to be the most critical – our coaches,” laughed Moran. “Which is a great turnaround from where I started.”

Darren welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about his experience with Tom Irwin: dmoran@pomfretschool.org

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