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Federal Funding Secured to Preserve Sylvester Manor

Portion of Shelter Island’s educational farm is secured by Suffolk County.

Suffolk County officials announced Tuesday that $866,000 from the National Resources Conservation Service will ensure the preservation of 26.25 acres of Shelter Island’s

With the assistance of Senator Gillibrand, Suffolk County was able to reach an agreement with the National Resources Conservation Service ensuring the agency that Suffolk County performed the necessary legal and administrative actions to ensure proper acquisition of the development rights of Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

Sylvester Manor was established in 1652 on fertile land at the head of a protected harbor on Shelter Island. It is one of the few places in the U.S. to have been in the hands of the same family since its colonial origins.

The property is also an important early American archaeological site complemented by over 10,000 primary documents — family papers, books and letters now archived at New York University’s Fales Library. The University of Massachusetts in Boston held an archaeological field school on the property for much of the last decade, and next year Farrar, Straus & Giroux is publishing a book exploring the Manor’s early history.

“Suffolk County has taken the appropriate steps to secure federal funding for the preservation of Sylvester Manor and bring the property back to its agricultural origins,” County Executive Bellone said in a statement. “A special thank you to Senator Gillibrand for serving as an advocate for the purchase of this property as well as Supervisor Jim Dougherty and the members of the Peconic Land Trust and Shelter Island Community Land Preservation Board for committing to preserve the rich history of Suffolk County and support of the Suffolk County farming industry.”

Founded by Mr. Ostby's nephew, musician and farmer Bennett Konesni, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm now operates on the 243-acre property, working to cultivate, preserve and share the Manor’s lands, buildings and stories while re-establishing Shelter Island's agricultural heritage in a sustainable way.

“This is a critical step in preserving the amazing history of the Sylvester Manor,” said Eben Foske-Otsby, 11th generation descendent of the Sylvester Clan.  “I am truly appreciative of the efforts of all involved to secure the historic significance of the Sylvester Manor and promote sustainable agriculture in Suffolk County.”

Through Senator Gillibrand’s urging, the Natural Resources Conservation Service at USDA tailored an easement agreement to this unique situation to keep this important agricultural land from being developed. Suffolk County will additionally provide $1 million in funds, under the Quarter Percent Drinking Water Protection Fund, and Shelter Island Town will contribute $456,800 toward the purchase of the acres.  The purchase will enable the county to restrict any type of residential development and secure the agricultural and educational purpose of the property. 

The farm, which is in its fourth full year of operation, grows over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables in a place that has been, at times, a native American hunting ground, a feudal plantation, a market farm selling to cities across the northeast, and the country estate of Eben Norton Horsford, the father of modern food chemistry.  The farm currently serves six East End restaurants as well as yields produce for 119 Community Supported Agricultural subscribers.  In addition, Sylvestor Manor provides educational workshops, tours and volunteer days for the Long Island community. 

“I want to express my thanks on behalf of all Shelter Islanders to County Executive Steve Bellone and his entire team for never wavering from their commitment to fostering the growth of community sponsored agriculture in the County as well as for their invaluable assistance in preserving our historic landmark, Slyvester Manor,” said Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

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