By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
A Picture Butte area sheep farmer has received a provincial 4-H honour.
Andy Pittman is one of two people to be named to the Alberta 4-H Hall of Fame this year, and has described the announcement as surreal.
“It’s an incredible honour, not something I ever dreamed that would happen honestly,” said Pittman. “The people that are in there, are people that I definitely look up to and had acted as my mentors over the years, so it’s very surreal, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it’s just a tremendous honour.”
Pittman’s 4-H career didn’t start until later in life, which he noted many people are surprised to hear. When he was growing up in the Picture Butte area and going to school, he had heard about it and had friends involved with it, but it wasn’t something that he and his family had been into when he was growing up. It wasn’t until 1999, when he was asked to be the MC at a local 4-H achievement day for the sheep clubs, as he has been a sheep farmer for many years, did he get into it.
“When I saw these kids – and I happen to have two daughters, one of them was just about the 4-H age, to get started – and when I did the MCing, I saw those kids out there with their sheep and working together and having fun,” said Pittman. “I was really impressed with what I saw in the 4-H member and what they sort of brought for that day and their confidence and their abilities, and I was sold on the whole motion of 4-H at this time.”
His daughters, Liz and Sarah, began getting involved with the Wild n’Wooley 4-H club, and he became an assistant leader, and was also asked to be a facilitator at a summer program known as Club Week. Since then, he has been involved in all levels of 4-H, from club leader to president of the 4-H Provincial Council to serving as a director on the Interim 4-H Alberta Board currently. Pittman was also a member of a group of individuals tasked with moving 4-H Alberta forward, meeting with club leaders and members across the province, and was the founding chair of the 4-H Alberta Sheep Show.
“I knew there were provincial beef shows and provincial dairy shows and provincial horse shows – which are the three main livestock projects that members can go in – I always wondered why wouldn’t there be a provincial sheep show?” said Pittman, who has been raising sheep since the 1980s. “I kicked this ideas around in my head for years, and I mentioned it to some people about the thought of doing it, and then I kind of brought it forward at the regional level and at the provincial level, and there happened to be a new livestock show that was combining different species at (a show) in Olds. And it just happened to be that one day we starting that up that as one that I was bringing up about a provincial show, so suddenly, all of the provincial events that were happening at different events across the province suddenly came to Olds, so that was the perfect springboard for them to start the provincial sheep show, and an opportunity for kids that were raising sheep as a project to get that sort of provincial level of competition and meeting kids from all parts of the province to bring their projects.
“Opportunity knocked, and it happens that timing was really good to make it happen and get it started.”
Liz and Sarah were 4-H members for nine years, and his wife, Frances, has also spent time serving as a 4-H leader and on provincial committees, with Pittman saying she has been a huge supporter of his work with 4-H.
“They are such a huge part of my involvement,” said Pittman. “It really emphasizes how much 4-H is really a family-oriented organization.”
Since becoming involved in 4-H, Pittman has been continually impressed by the kids participating in 4-H.
“I think that I see the confidence that they gain by being in 4-H and the ideas that they come up with and the enthusiasm they bring,” said Pittman. “It gives that renewed faith in the younger generation, to see what changes they can make and what kind of leadership skills they can develop when they are involved in programs such as 4-H. It sort of keeps us older folks, like myself, kind of young at heart just being involved with these amazing young 4-H members.”
Outside of 4-H, Pittman runs a purebred sheep farm and is the livestock farm manager at the Lethbridge Research Centre.
An award ceremony is currently scheduled to take place in 2021, pending COVID-19 restrictions.
The Alberta 4-H Hall of Fame was created in 1971 by premier Peter Lougheed, and honours Albertans who have made exceptional contributions to the 4-H program in the province as a volunteer through outstanding leadership and have significantly impacted 4-H youth and leaders.