Olds, Alberta: Olds College has received an incredible gift of 316 acres of agricultural land located near Carstairs, Alberta in Mountain View County from the estate of Willem Pitstra. Valued at $1.2 million, the land will be used to expand the Olds College Smart Farm, a high-tech farm that is transforming agriculture practices through installing, validating and demonstrating cutting-edge technologies.
“The Smart Farm creates a cutting edge learning environment for our students and lifelong learners by providing a hands-on venue for industry to develop, integrate and test new agriculture technology that will evolve our current ag practices,” comments Patrick Machacek, Vice President, Development and Strategy, Olds College. “Through the Pitstra’s generous gift, they are transforming agriculture education and research at Olds College, by allowing us to expand our Smart Farm.”
“Both my parents would be thrilled to know that the farmland will be contributing to research that will improve farming practices in Alberta and around the world,” says their daughter, Jackie Pitstra. “I believe my Dad felt that the college would appreciate the land, and that by donating to the school he would be contributing towards a legacy of education for future generations.”
Willem and Marrigje (Mar) Pitstra were both from Holland and immigrated to Canada as young adults. They met in Canada and purchased a home in Calgary in 1968. The couple purchased farmland west of Carstairs, in the 1980s. Willem was a welder specializing in pressure welding, and worked throughout southern Alberta on many projects including the ice arena at the Calgary Saddledome. Growing up during the Second World War and the occupation of Holland, educational opportunities were limited. That is why the Pitstra’s deeply valued education, and it was of high importance during the upbringing of their three children.
Marrigje was a self-taught horticulturist, a member of the Calgary Horticulture Society and award-winning gardener. It is so fitting and a great honour that Olds College has received this gift of land from a couple who displayed love for the trades, horticulture and agriculture. Thank you to the Pitstra family for this generous gift that will have a lasting impact on agriculture education.