Our Stories

From playing in creeks to helping conserve creeks

Meet the guys behind our newest nonprofit fundholder


Some people love the great outdoors and some people LOVE the great outdoors. For Thomas Krebs and Scott Smith, the outdoors is definitely their passion. That passion led them to create their own nonprofit, The Barn Group Land Trust.

“I have been passionate about the outdoors since I was in elementary school,” said Thomas Krebs, COO of The Barn Group. “There was a creek in the recess area of my elementary school. Playing in the creek attracted me more than tetherball or basketball. There was also a regional park near my home with woods, trails, creeks and a lake. The park had a nature center where my mother would enroll me every summer in weeklong nature camps. My grandfathers had me outside gardening, planting and weeding. Unsurprisingly, the only classes that interested me at university were related to wildlife, plants, and the environment. I got into the environmental world because the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors are present in almost every memory of my life. My job takes me home.”

For Scott, CEO, co-founder and chairman of The Barn Group, life started a little differently – in the concrete jungle of Atlanta.

“When I was 13 we moved to a farm in Alabama. I was able to see what nature could really do for a person. I quickly shifted from doing criminal things to enjoying nature and learning how to be a decent human being!” he laughed. “I began my career in sales and management, but none of those paths truly made me happy. When we created TBG I was able to really find myself and make a true impact on society and nature.”

Thomas Krebs
Scott Smith










So how did these two outdoor-loving guys meet and what led them to start a nonprofit together?

“I met Scott at church,” Thomas said. “As we became friends, we realized that our common experience in, and devotion for, the outdoors could lead to the creation of a successful land trust.”

During this time, Thomas had been working for an environmental consulting firm housed in a 600-square-foot barn.

“In that barn, we thought out loud, we calculated out loud, and we devised out loud. We shared a fervent enthusiasm for stream and wetland restoration,” Thomas said. “While some of the crew trickled away to other companies, the passion never left. TBG represents the ideals that made working in the barn great: integrity, teamwork, and an unstoppable enthusiasm for conserving natural resources. I wanted to create a company that focused solely on doing what’s best for the environment and was not distracted by end-of-the-year profits, so a nonprofit made sense.”

For both Thomas and Scott, sometimes they still can’t believe they get to do what they love.

“We facilitate voluntary private-land conservation owned by all types of landowners. That results in working with awesome folks in awesome places,” Scott said. “We have helped protect more than 21,000 acres across fourteen states, and each year we get to do more and more. The Barn Group is advancing the industry of land conservation and stewardship. We strive to set new standards in science and natural resource management, but also we want to have extraordinarily positive human-to-human relationships that are catalysts for greater conservation results.”

Thomas sampling invertebrates that live in the river as part of a monitoring program in the Salt River, Mesa, AZ.

Currently, The Barn Group is working on conserving properties in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. 

“We have also been working on Land Management Plans for properties in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia,” Thomas said. “These plans require us to perform detailed surveys and studies of biodiversity, noxious weeds, a game species, habitat, forests, streams, wetlands, and infrastructure on the property. The data collected in the field is analyzed and a management plan is created that guides future efforts to promote wildlife and land stewardship and maximize productivity.”

So what made them want to become a nonprofit fundholder at the Community Foundation? An important professional connection.

“Our attorney connected us to professional advisor Scott Phelan, Executive Vice President/Wealth Management, Financial Advisor at Janney Montgomery Scott. Scott suggested we work with the Community Foundation to help accomplish our goals. 

“We did a lot of research on community foundations and then Randy Redner and Britt Ramroop came to one of our board meetings and withstood pointed questions with well-informed details and good humor,” Scott said. “We all appreciated the genuineness and enthusiasm. Obviously, the most important part was their fiduciary responsibility and the manner in which the Community Foundation manages its fund. They have a track record of wise financial stewardship. They are proactive in helping make connections to other non-profit organizations that facilitate greater success.

“Working with them has been smooth and we’ve already experienced rapid returns in networking facilitated by the Community Foundation.”

To learn more about how you can become a fundholder, visit cfneg.org/howitworks.