National Pesticide Safety Education Center Will Support University Extension Programs

The National Pesticide Safety Education Center has hired Tom Smith to be Executive Director of the organization and Kerry Richards as the Educational Program Developer.

Tom’s leadership is an important milestone in the establishment of the National Pesticide Safety Education Center. “We are excited to have Tom assume day-to-day responsibility for the Center,” says Dean Herzfeld, Co-Chairman. “He brings 35 years of diverse experience to this position, including startup business development and management, leadership and operations for non-profit foundations and commodity groups, and design and implementation of strategic plans.”  

Tom Smith formal head shot
Tom Smith, Executive Director, National Pesticide Safety Education Center

As Executive Director, Tom is responsible for working with Pesticide Safety Education Coordinators in setting up the organizational and governing structure of the Center and overseeing the development of services and products to help state pesticide safety education programs operate more effectively. He will also identify and develop new revenue streams to sustain the Center and help support pesticide safety education.

Currently, Tom is the Associate Director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology at Michigan State University, where he develops and delivers training programs in food, agriculture, and natural resources to US military veterans who have barriers to employment. He also is a co-principal investigator for VESTA, a National Science Foundation National Center of Excellence focused on online wine and grape education. Tom also does work related to standards and has conducted training programs for international delegations for inspection and certification of agricultural products. Other international work has included skills and workforce development in East Africa and Southeast Asia as well as teaching in China.

“Building a new organization focused on pesticide safety education across the country with a mission to directly support state pesticide safety education programs is a tremendous opportunity and is critically important in these times of high need and reduced resources,” Tom says. Engaging with and learning from multiple stakeholders will be Tom’s first priority as the Center takes shape.

As educational program developer, Kerry will be responsible for working with pesticide safety education programs (PSEP) to identify existing educational resources and tools, in addition to developing new tools to meet the needs of PSEP coordinators. Another key responsibility for Kerry is to work cooperatively with PSEP’s to identify and facilitate opportunities to generate revenue to improve the sustainability of their programs. Kerry will work in collaboration, primarily with PSEP’s, to accomplish these goals. However, opportunities to collaborate with others, such as the Pesticide Educational Resource Center (PERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also be encouraged.

Strengthening and improving the quality, consistency, accessibility and outcomes of pesticide safety education has always been my passion. Now it is my mission as part of the NPSEC,” says Kerry.

About National Pesticide Safety Education Center

The National Pesticide Safety Education Center seeks to strengthen the national system of university extension Pesticide Safety Education Programs by improving the quality, consistency, and accessibility of educational offerings, promoting collaboration and leveraging of educational resources and learning assessment tools, and increasing revenue generation. The Center has received start-up funding from CropLife Foundation and crop protection companies BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, and Syngenta.

The Center, and its funder Crop Life Foundation, have contracted with eXtension to provide a financial and legal home for the Center in its startup phase, and to provide a catalog of offerings by PSEP Coordinators across the country.

For more information, contact Tom by e-mail at or by phone at 517-202-3019. Kerry can be reached via email at, or by phone at 814-880-0013.