What does it mean to be part of the Long Island agricultural landscape?
Nestled along the sandy dunes outside New York City, our coastal maritime community uniquely fosters farmers of all backgrounds. Purchasing our local, grass-fed beef means supporting 13th generation family farmers, new landowners purchasing and preserving land through leasing partnerships and young farmers from non-agrarian backgrounds learning through apprenticeship programs.
This diverse community dynamic and partnership is crucial to successfully grazing our cattle on the beautiful salt air-infused pastures of Eastern Long Island.
Acabonac, derived from the Native American word “root,” identifies with both the deep history of Long Island’s agricultural community and our desire to reconnect with those agricultural roots. We would not be able to produce such a high-quality beef without support from our partners within this community.
That includes Sylvester Manor Educational Farm where our cattle graze the historic pastures on their 243 acres of protected land.
Home to our first ranch, Sylvester Manor Educational farm was settled by the Sylvester Family in 1652. Since then, it has undergone many transformations from a Native American hunting and fishing ground, slaveholding provisioning plantation and Enlightenment-era farm. Today, it is a working educational farm.
Sylvester Manor Educational Farm shares our values through their dynamic team of forward thinkers, commitment to educating the next generation of farmers, production of healthy, environmentally-conscious food, innovative conservation efforts and homage to the land’s unique historical legacy.
We love working with the dynamic team driving Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s mission topreserve, cultivate and share history and ensure that food and art remain connected to the community and the land. Nowhere else can our cattle graze to the melodic tunes belting from co-founder Bennett Konesni as his robust voice leads groups of farmers, administrators and board members in work song in the Windmill field.
On any given day, our cattle are visited by University of Massachusetts-Boston archaeologists, New York University archivists, local land trust members or historians conducting research and preservation work. From offices in the historic manor house to the Johnston Field, Sylvester Manor staff and board members contribute unique perspective from beyond the shorelines of the island to Manhattan, Brooklyn, California, Palm Beach and Westchester. Their team is as diverse as the hundreds of vegetable varieties the farm grows, each contributing their own flavor and experience.
Teaching Young Farmers
This group also includes young farmers and volunteers from all over the world who come for the educational apprenticeship program. Co-founder Bennett, a farmer himself, envisioned young, soil-covered farmers coming together in the historic manor house to share meals of veggies they grew themselves.
One of our own ranchers completed the apprenticeship program, which invites young farmers to live and work at the manor for a season and learn the ins and outs of organic vegetable growing. Apprentices are taught hands-on farming skills from Vegetable Grower Jocelyn Craig, an alumnus of the apprenticeship program. She practices the knowledge she learned as an apprentice in an advanced management role, preparing her for a long career in agricultural enterprise.
The program collaborates with other local farms as well, exposing apprentices and volunteers to other farm business models in the area and alternative growing methods. With the advent of our partnership, apprentices also now have the unique opportunity to learn about 100% grass-fed, pasture-finished beef operations. Aside from learning all the day-to-day operations from seeding to selling, apprentices also learn about American agrarian culture, as Bennett teaches work songs to keep the “culture” in agriculture.
The future of our farmers is important to Acabonac Farms, as we create employment opportunities for local people and stand behind the good work Sylvester Manor is doing to ensure the next generation of agricultural leaders.
Sylvester Manor welcomes community members to enjoy the fruits of the apprentices’ good work at the farm stand and through community supported agriculture (CSA). For the first time this year, in addition to an organic vegetable share and bread share, members also have access to an Acabonac Farms CSA beef share. We love the idea that customers can meet all their grocery needs right at the farm stand, directly from our “farmily.”
Together we are encouraging Shelter Island residents to buy healthy foods produced right at Sylvester Manor in a way that is healthy for their families and environment.
Sylvester Manor shares our desire to promote the historical legacy of East End cattle ranching dating back to the 1650s through their own rich historical preservation and programming. Our cattle may find the occasional arrowhead or artifact while grazing the vigorous grasses of the back pastures. Archaeologists from The University of Massachusetts - Boston have over one million artifacts in preservation, while The Fales Library at NYU archives over 10,000 primary historic family papers, books and letters from within the walls of the 1737 Manor house.
Healthier Land, Healthier Food
Now a National Historic Landmark, Sylvester Manor’s grounds are home to an 1810 wind- powered grist mill constructed from native trees, an historic garden dating back to the 1650s, the remains of Manhansett Indian hunter-gatherer settlements, the burial ground of 200 enslaved servants of the former plantation and numerous historic barns and structures. The grass our cattle graze in these pastures grows vigorously due to sound agricultural practices that have been practiced on this land for at least 360 years.
Assuring healthier land and green spaces is important to Acabonac Farms and we are proud to partner with an organization that is passionate about teaching sound agricultural practices and implementing modern, creative technologies to continue protecting the land. Sylvester Manor is home to Suffolk County’s first-of-its-kind wetland treatment system that reduces sanitary system wastewater nitrogen by up to 90% or more. Just as the manure of our pasture-raised beef regenerates soil and promotes carbon sequestration, the waste of visitors and residents of Sylvester Manor will also be put to good use with implementation of this piloting clean water technology.
Our partnership with Sylvester Manor illustrates how much “community supported agriculture” defines more than a retail model. As our herd grows with the acquisition of new properties across the East End, we are grateful for early support from Sylvester Manor. Through our partnership and shared values, we will continue producing the healthiest, 100% grass-fed and pasture-finished beef that Long Island’s fertile sandy loam soil supports.