Across the country, farmland is disappearing forever at a rapid rate — about 40 acres an hour, according to American Farmland Trust president John Piotti.

“The Northeast, sadly, is not at the end of that,” said Mr. Piotti, who will speak at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury Monday night at 7 p.m. Robust development in the region means that businesses and homes are replacing farmlands that will never be used for agriculture again, he said.

Against that trend, Mr. Piotti also sees encouraging growth in local agriculture, which he described as farms that market and sell directly to consumers who are willing to pay a premium for quality and freshness.

“It’s a bit of a renaissance,” he said. “It’s uneven, but pretty significant.”

It’s also highly labor intensive, said Chris Fischer, who farms 5.7 acres of family land in Chilmark.

“Most small farmers are doing every aspect of their operation, and that’s hard,” Mr. Fischer said. “I was just thinking, yesterday at the [West Tisbury] farmers market, how challenging that formula is.”

But Mr. Fischer remains committed to working Beetlebung Farm, the third generation of his family to do so. He also wants to educate others about the role of farming on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Without food and agriculture here, the character of the community changes,” he said.

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission, like the American Farmland Trust, was established in the 1980s to preserve land from development. And although the land bank conserves all kinds of Island acreage, “farming is a very big priority,” said executive director James Lengyel.

With its two per cent transfer fee on most real estate transactions, the land bank conserves not only active farmland but fallow land with prime soil for agriculture. Land bank property is made available to farmers at just $10 per acre per year, a lease rate so low Mr. Lengyel says he’s often asked why the commission doesn’t raise it and make some money on the deal.

In response, “we arch our eyebrow and say that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Mr. Lengyel said. “We want to encourage farming. That’s why institutions such as the land bank exist: to absorb that cost and make the land available.”

Out of more than 3,100 acres the land bank has acquired over the past three decades —about five per cent of the Vineyard’s total land area — not quite 100 acres are currently leased to farming operations. Mr. Lengyel said he would like to see more farmers on land bank properties, including fallow lands.

“I’m waiting for someone to take the land bank up on this and propose something, because trees can be removed,” he said. “We have plenty of properties that have prime soils. We need willing bodies.”

One of the land bank’s tenants is flower farmer Krishana Collins, who lives with Mr. Fischer at Tea Lane Farm in Chilmark. She has a 75-year lease on the farm, which is owned by the town, and rents two parcels from the land bank. Along with her flowers, the land supports sheep and pigs.

“I think they’re pretty wonderful,” she said of the land bank commission. “They have the insight to preserve land and they’ve been great advocates and very understanding of what a farmer needs. If I need to put up a fence, or cut a tree to get more light into the garden, they’re very agreeable.”

Ms. Collins has no problem sharing her leased land with hikers who wander through and around the properties on land bank trails.

“I want people to see what’s happening,” she said. “I want people to see what the land bank is doing and be proud of it.”

In cases where the land bank does not buy property outright, it often teams with other agencies to purchase development rights from landowning farmers. The Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction program allows landowners to sell off the development rights to their land, reducing its market value to a sustainable level for farming.

Clarissa Allen of Allen Farm in Chilmark, the Athearn family of Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown and the Fischer family of Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury are among the local farmers who have placed land under agricultural preservation restrictions, Mr. Lengyel said.

Morning Glory farm chief executive officer Simon Athearn and his wife Robyn have also placed their home farm in West Tisbury, formerly farmed by Mr. Athearn’s great-uncle Leonard Athearn, under a specific land bank restriction that requires the land to be actively farmed by its owners.

The Vineyard Conservation Society, headed by Mr. Athearn’s father Jim, also works to protect Island farms with conservation restrictions and advocacy against developments that threaten to encroach on agricultural land.

“You’ve got to preserve the actual farmland, but you also don’t want that farmland to be crowded around by neighbors who are not conducive to farming,” Jim Athearn said.

There are other agencies that make farmland available as well, Simon Athearn said. “We lease three parcels from the land bank, two from Sheriff’s Meadow and one from the town of Edgartown.”

Farmers make good environmental stewards for public lands, Mr. Athearn added. “They have a better understanding of how land works. If a stream is poisoned, they’re the first to find out.”

A 2009 study by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission found active farms on 1,687 acres of Island land, with horses occupying 259 acres, feed hay production on 493 acres and food for human consumption raised on 935 acres.

An additional 514 fallow acres were identified as having agricultural-class soils, according to the MVC report issued in 2010 for the Island Plan.

Mr. Piotti’s free talk at the Agricultural Hall Monday is titled Saving the Land That Sustains Us — Steps Needed to Secure the Future of Farming. A question-and-answer period will follow.

A graduate of Nantucket High School who played in the first Island Cup football game in 1978 (“We beat the Vineyard 36 to 0. I’ll remember it all my life,” he said), Mr. Piotti is a longtime resident of Maine. The American Farmland Trust is based in Washington, D.C.