Trustees have another month to leave Katama Farm

Organization ties up loose ends after town ends lease.

The Trustees of Reservations and the FARM Institute were granted a month-long extension to move off the Katama Farm.

The Trustees of Reservations were given another month to put its affairs in order and leave the Katama Farm after Edgartown severed its lease with the organization following a dispute over the use of the farm.

Originally, the town ordered the Trustees and the FARM Institute, which the Trustees operate, to “remove themselves” from the farm by Sept. 15, but conservation agent Jane Varkonda told The Times by phone Monday that the town has extended the Trustees’ stay to Oct. 15, giving them more time to move out. After that, the town is going to begin exploring its options for the farm.

“We’re going to form a subcommittee, hire some experts, and start looking for another farmer or farmers, and/or someone to run the camps,” Varkonda said. “It has to go out to bid. It will be a very public process.”

Earlier this year, commissioners raised concerns with Trustee’s Islands director Sam Hart about the use of the farm. Commissioners felt there was too big a focus on farm events and the teaching kitchen at the FARM Institute, and too little focus on agricultural production. Among the many issues, commissioners were unhappy with the significant decline in livestock, compared with the 2016 farm-use plan. 

Also speaking to The Times Monday, Hart said the Trustees are in close communication with the conservation commission, and that the farm’s livestock will be transferred off-Island to other Trustees farms. He said ferry passage for some of the livestock has been booked this week.

Along with moving livestock, Hart said the Trustees have other tasks to complete before they leave the farm.

“We’ve got lime that we’re going to spread in the fields,” Hart said. “We’ve got to put a cover crop on the north pasture, there’s some things we need to tie up, so we’re going to continue with those efforts.”

Hart added that the Trustees are “100 percent” committed to the farm’s employees, and no decisions on layoffs or transfers have been made.

“We haven’t made any moves of that sort,” Hart said. “And hopefully we won’t.”

Since the news of the Trustees and FARM Institute’s departure, the organizations have seen an outpouring of support through letters to the editor, from both adults and children, and on social media.