The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced this week that it will preserve 43 acres of active agriculture at Thimble Farm, the familiar Vineyard farm whose pick-your-own berries and luscious hydroponic tomatoes are now considered staples of Island life. Owned by Bencion and Patricia Moskow since 1982, the farm spans the three towns of Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury.

“This particular farm has an appeal because it is so well known to Islanders — who hasn’t picked strawberries and raspberries at Thimble Farm?” said land bank executive director James Lengyel this week.

The land bank will pay $1.075 million to buy the development rights to the farm.

Most of the farm property is field. The southern boundary of the property includes a brook, which empties into Duarte’s Pond, a small “cousin” to the Lambert’s Cove Duarte’s Pond. The pond is named as one of the Vineyard’s Special Places under the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Islandwide Special Places District of Critical Planning Concern.

The land bank deal with the Moskows is actually four separate agreements. The land bank will buy the development rights to the farm through a standard agricultural preservation restriction (APR) agreement, which includes view protection and architectural restriction. The Moskows will also grant a trail easement and an agricultural use easement; the fourth agreement involves a promissory note for payment. The agricultural use agreement will allow the land bank to lease the farm to another farmer if for some reason the Moskows stop farming the property for two consecutive years.

The use easement is simply an added measure to insure active farming, Mr. Lengyel said.

“I don’t think the land bank ever wants to exercise an easement, but it wants to provide an incentive,” he said.

Mr. Lengyel said the trail easement is an important component of the package, because it will provide a giant step toward completion of the cross-town trail planned by the land bank. The plan calls for creating a trail network that will allow hikers to traverse the town from downtown Tisbury to the Manuel Correllus State Forest.

“These cross-town trails are supposed to be something like the Taste of the Vineyard,” Mr. Lengyel said, referring to the popular summer charity event hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. “You are supposed to get a little bit of woodlands, a pond, a stream . . . . and this property will add an important element to all of that,” he added. The easement will create a public path, including access to the pond.

The land bank will pay the Moskows 20 per cent of the sale price in cash and the balance will be financed over four years.

The agreements also call for a subdivision of land before the closing; the subdivision will create three separate lots for three existing houses on the farm and a fourth lot for the greenhouse and farm buildings. Portions of the lots will be covered by the APR agreement and trail easement.

“Farmland is a significant land bank priority,” declared a press statement announcing the purchase this week.

To date, the land bank has completed 10 APR purchases on the Vineyard. Created by an act of the state legislature in 1984, the Vineyard land bank buys conservation land using funds collected through a two per cent transfer fee on most real estate transactions. With their signature green and white signposts, land bank properties have become an important feature on the Vineyard landscape.

The Moskows are former lawyers who purchased their property in 1982 and began the building blocks of what is now a prosperous and advanced agricultural enterprise. They began in 1984 with summer strawberry and raspberry farming, developing a pick-your-own operation that caught on quickly. In 1991 they built a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse and began growing hydroponic tomatoes. Later lettuce, herbs and other greens were added to the growing operation, and Thimble Farm produce is now available all year long in every Island grocery outlet.

The Moskows provide housing for their workers on the farm, and have begun a farm intern operation for aspiring students of agriculture.

The Moskows are guarded about releasing their production numbers, but 10 years ago tomato production was reported at some 20,000 pounds annually. The tomatoes are only available on the Vineyard, where they are consumed in huge quantities, from home kitchens to gourmet restaurants.

In an interview with the Gazette six years ago, Mr. Moskow said: “We think we do as well as any producer in the country.”