After months of alleged noncompliance, the Edgartown conservation commission has formally terminated its lease with The Trustees of Reservations at the historic Katama Farm, evicting the venerable land trust from the globally-rare, 180-acre property only four years into its tenancy.

In stern language, chairman of the town conservation commission Edward (Peter) Vincent informed the Trustees of the conservation commission’s decision in a letter sent to Islands director Sam Hart Monday.

The Trustees must vacate all livestock and equipment from the farm and leave it in “broom clean” condition by Sept. 15, the letter states — capping a rapid deterioration in relationship between the town and the Trustees that began with promise when the Trustees took over stewardship of the farm in 2016.

“It serves no useful purpose to continue to recite our strong disappointment with the Trustees’ management of the Katama Farm,” Mr. Vincent wrote in part to Mr. Hart. “At this point, we have no choice but to deliver the letter of termination to you, which we are doing today.”

The Trustees, a Massachusetts land conservancy with seven properties on Martha’s Vineyard from Menemsha to Cape Pogue, took over the nonprofit Farm Institute and lease for the 182-acre farm in 2016. The lease runs for 30 years at a rate of $12,500 per year. The conservation commission is the landlord for the property, whose history as a working farm dates to a previous century.

In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Mr. Hart expressed surprise and disappointment at the letters, calling the matter a “misalignment” with the town.

“At the core of the misalignment . . . is the balance of managing both a high-production livestock operation and an educational farm on the same site,” Mr. Hart wrote.

Issues regarding the use of the farm by the Trustees have been bubbling for the past two years, and the removal of animals and the presence of sickly livestock proved to be the final straw for the conservation commission, according to the letter sent Monday. The lease and use plan governing the property has strict requirements that it remain a working farm and maintain certain numbers of livestock, including 65 head of cattle.

“Without elaborating further, we are particularly troubled that there are not only nine cattle remaining at the Katama Farm, despite the requirement in the governing use plan that there are to be 65 cattle, and that the sick goats have not been promptly removed from the Katama Farm by the Trustees,” Mr. Vincent wrote.

The statement from Mr. Hart claimed that there are currently 23 cows on the property, with 20 more due to arrive at month’s end. The sick goats on the property were due for a final round of “deworming treatment” before their removal, the statement also said.

Reached by the Gazette later Monday, town conservation agent Jane Varkonda clarified that the goats arrived at the farm with tetanus, among other issues. But the broader problem, she added, was that they were not supposed to be at the farm anyway. They were slated for an ecological restoration project at Long Point, a different Trustees property, she said.

“That was our question, why were they there?” Ms. Varkonda said. “A couple of them died. It wasn’t a good thing.”

The vote by the conservation commission to terminate the lease occurred on July 30, according to the letter, and included Mr. Vincent, Ms. Varkonda, selectman Michael Donaroma and town counsel Ron Rappaport.

In an earlier letter dated July 30, Mr. Vincent elaborated further on the reason for the eviction, saying that recent problems with The Trustees included the winnowing of full-time farm staff and animals, the presence of sickly livestock, late rent payments, and the use of the property for fundraising and other non-farming purposes.

Most grievously, the town concluded that the Trustees had abandoned the mission to maintain the property as a working farm — a problem that had been brought up previously but was never fully addressed, according to the letters — irreconcilably violating the spirit and letter of the lease, and the Trustees’ relationship with the town.

“The fundamental difference in vision between the town and the Trustees for Katama Farm is one that does not seem reconcilable,” Mr. Vincent wrote in part. “The town acknowledges that the recent state of emergency due to Covid-19 has complicated operations, including delaying the return of some animals to the premises; this does not, however, justify the ongoing lack of farming activity at Katama Farm.”

The town bought Katama Farm in the late 1970s amidst threats from developers to turn the globally-rare remnant of the Great Plains with its rich loamy topsoil into a 700-lot subdivision. Over the years, the farm has had an eclectic assortment of tenants, including dairy and beef operations.

Originally established as an educational nonprofit dedicated to livestock farming and teaching, the Farm Institute began leasing Katama Farm from the town in 2003. The Trustees merged with the institute in 2016 and subsequently took over the lease with the town.

Along with its farming operation, the Trustees use the property for fundraising and summer camps, and recently installed a kitchen.

Mr. Hart said the Trustees have invested nearly $2 million in the farm and hosted thousands of students and families for educational programs.

He also said the Farm Institute merger came with problems.

“In 2016, we inherited a financially non-viable agricultural model and had hoped to find middle ground with the town on the number of animals in production while also providing more educational opportunities for the public and visitors in farm-based experiences,” he wrote.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Monday, Mr. Hart acknowledged that the Trustees and town had communication issues, and that the late rent payment was an error, but said that he felt the Trustees had always worked “in good faith” to update the use plan for the farm.

“That’s something we should have had a voice in — to really revise a use plan that we felt was outdated,” Mr. Hart said “And we just never got that opportunity.”

Ms. Varkonda confirmed Monday that the town had issues with previous tenants farming at the site, but that did not mean the Trustees could violate the use plan.

“It’s never been easy out there,” she said. “But farming isn’t easy.”

Mr. Hart said he did not know whether the Trustees would fight the eviction. There are five employees who work at the farm, he said.

“We just learned about this today . . . and are still digesting the information,” Mr. Hart said. “We are weighing all of our options right now.”

Back in February, the town and Trustees clashed during a series of conservation commission committee meetings regarding the Trustees’ maintenance of the property as a working farm. At that point, the Trustees had cut farming staff, removed dozens of livestock and proposed “production scale changes” at the site due to the presence of grasshopper sparrows, causing town officials to bristle.

Although the Trustees attempted to cool the heat in later meetings, presenting a new use plan and promising that the farm animals would be returned to the property, the changes did not prove adequate for the conservation commission, who felt their lease — and trust — had been permanently violated.

Mr. Vincent articulated disappointment in the letter Monday, saying that the two sides, among other things, could not even negotiate a graceful exit after the July 30 decision to terminate the lease.

“At that meeting, we discussed the reasons for our vote of termination, and wanted to provide the Trustees to negotiate a ‘friendly’ departure from the Katama Farm,” the letter on Monday reads. “Since that time, several emails have been exchanged in an attempt to reach an accommodation. Unfortunately, those efforts have been unsuccessful. While we appreciate the statement about how badly the Trustees’ staff feel about the current state of affairs, and their acknowledgment of past mistakes, the fact remains that the reasons which led the conservation commission to vote to terminate the lease have not been meaningfully addressed.”

“We look forward to working with you to facilitate your departure,” Mr. Vincent concluded.