January 2020
A New Year, A New Plan

Dear Friends,

As a new decade begins, and I embark on my third season as Executive Director of Sylvester Manor, I am constantly reminded of my own upbringing. I grew up on a 300 acre family farm on the North Fork and as a boy explored every inch of the property; from the creek that runs along the eastern side of the farm to the attic of our 1730s farmhouse. Today, I’m fortunate enough to run an organization that stewards a property of similar size - 240 acres - with similar environmental features - extensive creek frontage, over 80 acres of farmland in cultivation, more than 100 acres of natural lands and woods - similar historic structures - a 1730s Manor House - and a similar ethic of conservation and historic preservation.

But what makes Sylvester Manor stand apart is its potential to engage the whole community and ask difficult questions about our past. How should we honor the indigenous, Native peoples that have been farming on this land for thousands of years? How can we best confront a past and a site that actively promoted the enslavement of people? It’s something I’ve struggled with when it comes to my own past, and it’s something our recent site-wide master planning work has sought to interpret and integrate. The master plan will be a road map for the next 100 years and enable us to build on the organization’s founding principles: working farm, historic and environmental preservation, historic interpretation, education, culture and the arts, sustainability and innovation.

Through the lens of the master site planning process, staff and board of the Manor have been straddling the line between planning for the Manor's future and ensuring high quality programming and events. Below is an overview of some of the work we expect to accomplish in 2020:

  • Expand & grow the farm: we just hired a new Director of Farm Operations in order to provide our community with more locally sourced food, to model sustainable methods of agriculture and to continue educating the next generation of farmers.

  • Host another, more expansive, archaeological dig on the Manor grounds to further explore the connection between the earliest European settlers, enslaved Africans and Native Americans

  • Continue our historic preservation work:

    • Complete the restoration of our 1810 Dominy Windmill, including the installation of a new windshaft, blades and sails; plus, we plan to repair the internal mechanisms in order to make it a fully functional gristmill once again.

    • Finish updating a long term preservation plan for the Manor House and continue ongoing maintenance work.

  • Grow our Summer Youth Program and offer additional opportunities for children of all ages

  • Complete our site wide master plan with our team of landscape architects from Nelson Byrd Woltz

  • Continue to maintain and preserve the gardens, grounds and woodlands of Sylvester Manor and make them accessible to the whole community

Thank you so much for your ongoing engagement and support; from all of us here at Sylvester Manor we wish you and your family a very happy New Year.


Stephen Searl
CSA Registration Opens January 1

Thank you to everyone who participated in our CSA in 2019. Registration for returning CSA members opens on January 1. Returning members will receive a separate email with registration instructions.

If you were not a CSA member last year and are interested in joining for the 2020 season, please follow 
this link to add your name to our CSA inquiries list. You will be notified should space become available.

January Bluegrass Concert

Tickets are selling quickly for our January Bluegrass Concert featuring Damn Tall Buildings. This band has a lighting-in-a-bottle live energy that was learned from years of busking on Newbury Street as students of Berklee School of Music. Their sound is musically refined without losing its dynamic, raw and playful edge. Don’t miss your chance to see the band the Boston Globe called “The Carter Family for the millennial generation. Old Crow Medicine Show meets Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros meets Flatt & Scruggs meets Nickel Creek.” This show is not to be missed!

Saturday, January 18
7:30 pm
Shelter Island School Auditorium
33 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island
Reserved seats: $30 - $45

Volunteers Wanted for January Concert

We are looking for a few more volunteers to usher and sell tickets at our January Bluegrass Concert on Saturday, January 18. All volunteers are welcome to pull up a chair and stay for the show. If interested in volunteering, please contact Alice Clark at or call the Manor office at 631-749-0626.

Summer Youth Program Registration

Get those kids ready for another season of planting and harvesting vegetables, preparing foods, learning about the history of the Manor and engaging in art, music, and animal-related activities! Registration opens online on February 1.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Caroline Scudder at

Looking for Docents

We are looking for history enthusiasts and current/former educators to become docents and to help us tell our stories as tour educators and guides for the 2020 season. 

Please contact Curator/Archivist Donnamarie Barnes at for additional information.

A New Familiar Face on the Farm

We welcome back Cristina Cosentino in the role of Director of Farm Operations. In this newly created position, Cristina, also known as "Tino," will be responsible for supervising all aspects of operations on the farm including the CSA program and education of our seasonal farm apprentices and volunteers.

You may remember Tino as an apprentice at Sylvester Manor in 2015 where she spent a year farming and learning tractor and machinery maintenance. Since that apprenticeship, she has worked on various vegetable and livestock farms in the Northeast including The H.O.G. Farm, an 18-acre CSA and vegetable farm in Brookhaven, NY. In 2017, Tino was the production, operations and sales manager for Acabonac Farms, the pasture-finishing beef producer that leased 60 acres of our back pasture. Most recently, Tino managed an expansive vegetable market garden in Smithfield, RI providing fresh produce for Fidelity Investments’ cafeteria.

Cristina will be instrumental in the expansion of the farm in 2020, as we increase production across the board, including vegetables, fruit and livestock, and continue to provide the community with fresh, Island-grown food. Please stop by the farm to say hello; welcome back Tino!

Visiting Sylvester Manor This Fall & Winter

The grounds are open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm. To visit, enter through the pillars at 80 North Ferry Road. Follow the driveway to park near the yellow Manor House.

From November through March the walking trails will be closed due to hunting. We are working with the Town of Shelter Island's Hunting Program to control the deer population. Please take notice of the No Trail Walking signs when posted.

   1         CSA Registration Opens
 18         Winter Bluegrass Concert: Damn Tall Buildings

    1         Summer Youth Program Registration Opens
  23         Black History Month Event
Visit our online calendar for a complete listing of upcoming programs and events.
Don't forget to use Amazon Smile when you are doing your Amazon shopping! 

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

On your first visit to AmazonSmile (, you need to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Your selection will be remembered, and then every eligible purchase you make at will result in a donation. We encourage you to select Sylvester Manor Educational Farm so we can continue to carry out our mission.



We preserve, cultivate and share historic Sylvester Manor to ensure that food and art remain connected to community and the land. 
Post Office Box 2029 | 80 North Ferry Road | Shelter Island, NY 11964 | 631.749.0626
Copyright © Sylvester Manor 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Sylvester Manor Educational Farm · PO Box 2029 · 80 North Ferry Road · Shelter Island, NY 11964 · USA