The Willem Pitstra estate gifted the school 316 acres of land
By Diego Flammini
An Alberta school can expand its ag education facilities thanks to a land donation.
The estate of Willem Pitstra donated 316 acres of farmland in Mountain View County to Olds College in Olds, Alta. The gift, valued at $1.2 million, will be used to grow the school’s Smart Farm, a cutting-edge learning environment for students.
The donation will also have benefits beyond the Smart Farm, said Patrick Machacek, Olds College’s vice-president of development and strategy.
“We also run (a) cow-calf operation at the college,” he said, Rock 104.5 reported. “That cow-calf operation supports our national meat program. We (process) and retail about 450 head of cattle every year. This (donation) allows us to expand that as well.”
The gift will bring the total farm acreage owned and operated by the school to about 2,000, he added.
Willem Pitstra and Marrigje (Mar) immigrated separately from Holland to Canada during the Second World War as young adults. They purchased a home together in Calgary 1968 and married that year. In the 1980s, they purchased farmland west of Carstairs.
Willem had a career as a welder while Mar was a member of the Calgary Horticulture Society and an award-winning gardener.
Coming to Canada at a time when educational opportunities were limited, the pair held schooling in high regard.
“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,” Jackie Pitstra, the couple’s daughter, said in a June 12 statement. “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.”
Several people posted messages on the Olds College Facebook page in support of the donation.
“What a fabulous gift to the next generation and generations to come. Warms my heart,” wrote Kimberley Stockwood.
“What a fantastic gift to the college but also to agriculture,” posted Beverley Gordon.
Farms.com has reached out to Olds College for comment.
Willem and Marrigje Pitstra
Olds College photo