Martha’s Vineyard Farm Project drops plan to buy Thimble Farm

Harvesting at Thimble Farm may be in the past. — File photo by Susan Safford

Thimble Farm owner Eric Grubman plans to sell his 37-acre property, following a failed effort by a community coalition of Island conservation, agriculture, and housing group representatives, local farmers, and interested residents to raise money for its purchase.

For the past eight years, Whippoorwill Farm owner Andrew Woodruff leased Thimble Farm to expand the operations of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a private farming cooperative that he ran.

Mr. Woodruff announced in the Whippoorwill Farm CSA newsletter, published online May 7, that he had received an email from Mr. Grubman informing him that Thimble Farm’s sale “…could be imminent.”

He has already moved the CSA headquarters back to Whippoorwill Farm in West Tisbury for the 2012 season.

CSA members buy farm shares in advance, which pays for seed, fertilizer, farm maintenance, and labor. Each week in the growing season, shareholders pick up vegetables, herbs, and flowers from a farmstand on the property.

CSA was using the Thimble Farm land when the farm went on the market in 2007. Mr. Grubman, a National Football League executive and Edgartown summer resident, bought the farm in Oak Bluffs for $2.45 million.

He committed himself at the time to keeping the land in sustainable food production. CSA officials, in turn, said that Mr. Grubman’s purchase of the land would give them time to set up some form of nonprofit ownership structure.

In August 2011, a group that included representatives the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Island Grown Initiative, and housing groups, local farmers, and interested Island residents met at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury to plan how they might raise money to buy Thimble Farm by the year’s end. A committee from the group, known as the Martha’s Vineyard Farm Project, set a goal to raise $2.5 million to buy the farm.

“Unfortunately, as I understand it, this effort died several weeks ago due mainly to the lack of funds,” Mr. Woodruff wrote in the CSA newsletter. “Mr. Grubman has held this land for four years now and has not seen enough interest from a financial standpoint from others in the community to feel comfortable in pursuing this effort further.”

Despite the end of the Farm Project committee, Mr. Woodruff made what he called “one last plea” for some significant donations to move the project forward. He also thanked Mr. Grubman for his generosity in giving the Island an opportunity to save the farm.