Historic Sylvester Manor triples farmland
A 57-acre development rights purchase on Shelter Island has tripled the preserved farmland at Sylvester Manor -- the historic home of the family that once owned all of the town -- and brought the amount of preserved farmland there to 83 acres.
The current 243-acre estate also has 22 acres of waterfront and uplands preserved through a conservation easement, donated in 2009 by Eben Fiske Ostby, the 10th-generation lord of the manor.
Suffolk County paid 70 percent of the new $4,688,300 development rights purchase through its quarter-percent drinking water preservation program tax, and Shelter Island Town paid the rest through its special 2 percent tax on real estate transfers within the town.
The newly preserved 57 acres of farmland is adjacent to 26 additional acres of similarly preserved farmland.
Both real estate transfers were administered through the Peconic Land Trust, and both properties have been donated to the nonprofit Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, which has a long-term goal of restoring farming at the site and running educational programs.
The Manor, which was established in 1652, has been bringing farming back to the small town; the industry all but ended there in the 1980s because of residential development and the uncontrolled growth of deer herds.
Now, instead of the corn and cabbage grown on Shelter Island during World War II, the educational farm grows pesticide-free crops that are sold at its farm stand. The farm plans to use the newly preserved acreage to extend its orchard, livestock and row crops, and eventually to lease farmland to local farmers and gardeners.
Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty said that the purchase was important in preserving the cultural and farming heritage of his town. "Sylvester Manor, in my opinion, is preserved for all time," he said.
Ostby said the second sale and donation of the land will preserve Sylvester Manor for decades to come.
"We now have a significant landholding preserved for future generations, and with it a critical foundation for the Educational Farm and its mission," he said in a statement.
Still private property, Sylvester Manor is opened to the public about once a month, and has a number of programs for town residents, such as the Columbus Day Plant and Sing food and music festival.
Melissa Mundy, Sylvester Manor's programs and development coordinator, said an open house for donors will be held Dec. 15, and next year's community programs will begin with a bluegrass concert at Shelter Island High School on Jan. 19.