The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced Tuesday that it has signed an agreement to buy an agricultural preservation restriction to permanently conserve some four and a half acres of farmland at Whippoorwill farm off Old County Road in West Tisbury.
The owner of the farm is Andrew Woodruff. The price to be paid for the restriction is $43,000 per acre.
“This was always of interest to the land bank, to create a long cropland area,” land bank executive director James Lengyel said following the announcement. Mr. Lengyel said the terms of the agreement call for Mr. Woodruff to take down the buildings and greenhouses that line the road to create a clear view of crop lands across to Old Holmes Hole Road, an ancient way.
Mr. Woodruff has one year to complete the work to meet the terms of the agreement. Mr. Lengyel said work had already begun this week.
Mr. Woodruff owns about eight acres at Whippoorwill Farm, the site of the Island’s first community supported agriculture program. For some years he leased the land to a flower grower and relocated his vegetable growing operation to Thimble Farm. But last year he moved back to the Old County Road location to grow vegetables there again.
“For a long time I’ve thought about putting a conservation restriction on it and I’ve wanted to keep it in permanent agriculture and bring it back as working farm,” Mr. Woodruff said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’ve finally made that commitment.”
“It’s difficult holding on to land. There’s always that possibility that you might need to sell it,” he continued. “While I can still theoretically sell the land, I’m committed to keeping it in food production forever. I feel like I’ve reached an important goal with land.”
Mr. Woodruff acknowledged the increasing interest in agriculture on the Island and said the conservation restriction will “hopefully contribute to that in the future.”
In the meantime the farm is undergoing a “major facelift,” Mr. Woodruff said, as he and his crew relocate four greenhouses to another part of the property and take down half a barn.
The property will mark the fourth land and farmland protection project for the land bank off Old County Road. In 1992 the land bank bought a property across from the West Tisbury School that today is the Old County Arboretum. In 2001 it bought the development rights to the Child Farm East and in 2007 it bought the development rights to the Square Field, near Scotchman’s Bridge Lane.
Mr. Lengyel called the price paid for the farm rights to Whippoorwill “a standard deal.”
The purchase marks the second land bank announcement in West Tisbury in two weeks. Last week the land bank announced it would help preserve part of Flat Point Farm for $3.45 million thanks to a loan from Steven Rattner, an abutter. Mr. Lengyel said the two announcements do not represent an uptick in activity for the land bank which relies on fees from real estate transactions for its revenues and has made few purchases since the economic downturn.
“This is simply longstanding priorities happily coming to fruition,” he said.