Milton Academy

"I could call Brian this afternoon and say I’m having a problem with a field, and he would be out here this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning..."

—Steve Zannino, Milton Academy

You would expect a school that’s 214 years old to know a thing or two about sustainability. Milton Academy has seen a responsible steward of its 150-acre campus in Milton, Massachusetts since John Adams was the US President.

That ecological focus has intensified in recent years at the prestigious K-12 private school that has graduated such notables as poet T.S. Eliot, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and musician James Taylor. As the Milton website proclaims, the school’s commitment to sustainability means “an awareness of and respect for the fragile ecological equilibrium that supports us. We know that our collective future depends upon the social and environmental well-being of the planet and all life on it.”

Of course, aesthetics are also important. Milton families expect to see their tuition payments reflected not only in their children’s SAT scores, but also in the school’s facilities and grounds. Just ask Steve Zannino, Milton Academy’s Associate Director for Grounds, Events and Fleet Management. He’s been nurturing the lush green turf for Milton scholar-athletes for 26 years.

“Milton is known for its academics, but we’ve won 17 Independent School League championships in just the last five years,” he noted. “And all of our students participate in athletics of one kind or another.”

For Zannino, nurturing those scholar-athletes means keeping all 150 acres of Milton Academy, including 12 sports fields and 17 tennis courts, looking their best. With 30 interscholastic sports teams and nine intramural offerings, that’s a big job for Zannino and his staff of 10 full-time and two part-time employees.

For the past six years, Tom Irwin has played an important role in keeping the Milton Academy campus sustainably beautiful.

Steve Zannino was a reluctant convert. “My first impression of Tom Irwin in the early days was that they were expensive,” he explained. But eventually he recognized he needed more than the service he was getting. “The company I used to use before, we’d see the guy maybe once or twice a year and that’d be it.”

Junior Varsity Soccer Field at Milton Academy

He decided to give Tom Irwin’s Brian Luccini a chance. “We were having a problem with one of our fields,” said Zannino. “We couldn’t keep the grass green over the drainage trenches. So we put that field on a program. Pretty soon, we got that field looking the way I wanted, so we tried another field where I was having a problem.”

Before long, Steve and Brian took on the Milton Academy varsity fields, then the quad area, then the JV and lower school fields.  Steve knows it’s about more than appearance. “Obviously, you want the grass to look good. But when we rope the quad off, it’s not because we want it to look good. We want it to be safe.”

Milton Academy provides ample proof that campus grounds can be safe, beautiful, and sustainable.

“We’re 90% organic now, which the school loves to hear,” said Zannino. Taking a more sustainable approach also means taking a longer-term perspective. “Brian would say,‘This is a work in progress. We can’t expect results overnight."

Tom Irwin has invested a lot of time in the Milton Academy grounds. “It’s been a lot more thorough with Tom Irwin,” said Zannino. “Brian and I spend a lot of time evaluating our progress, meeting and walking the fields, pulling soil and profile samples, taking water samples. I could call Brian this afternoon and say I’m having a problem with a field, and he would be out here this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning, offering help and providing solutions.”

Steve welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about
his experience with Tom Irwin:

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