Martin Ford, fine-turf manager, Institute of Groundsmanship

How did you break into the industry?

I joined as a parks apprentice many years ago in Bristol. I went into it because I liked being outdoors and I was interested in plants. I soon realised it meant working outdoors in all sorts of winds and weathers, getting up early in the morning and hard physical work, especially as there were not so many machines to help then. But while work was sometimes menial and boring it could also be very interesting.

Who or what was your inspiration?

 I had a really enthusiastic teacher who was the horticultural science lecturer at Somerset College of Agriculture (now Cannington College) called Stuart Chambers. He was a good guy.

What's the most difficult job you have ever done?

 Managing people. They can be unpredictable, fascinating and interesting. You need a whole range of skills for getting things you want done through other people. It helps if you've done the jobs yourself and you need patience and to realise that people are different and can't be treated the same.

What is your advice to novices?

Be prepared. Many young people come into the industry inspired by the weather when it is very nice, but the English climate is variable. Groundsmanship can be mundane and you've got to stick with it because there are great rewards when growing plants and producing good sports pitches.

How do you relax?

I take my dog for a walk. I also like reading, walking with my wife, gardening and playing a bit of golf.

What does the future hold for you?

 I hope to continue to develop the quality of cricket pitches across the UK. In my role as fine-turf manager, jointly funded by the IoG and the England & Wales Cricket Board, I have been liaising with pitch advisers and helping premier league cricket clubs adopt Performance Quality Standards. I hope to encourage other sporting bodies to use the standards to improve natural playing surfaces.

My role was funded for the year so hopefully it will roll along to next year. The IoG is carrying out a four-year research project into aeration at Cranfield University. It has funds of £40,000 from the ECB - with support from Sport England - and it's going to be an interesting and exciting project.


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