Where did the idea of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm come from, anyway?

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Bennett Konesni with guitar at a Sylvester Manor barn dance held at the Historical Society last year.

The heir of Sylvester Manor, Eben Ostby, turned to his nephew Bennett Konesni when it came time to figure out what to do with the 17th-century family holding last occupied by Mr. Ostby’s uncle’s wife, Alice Fiske. Preservation of its remaining 243 acres and 18th=century manor house was their goal — but how accomplish it in a way that was financially self-sustaining, a way that would keep the manor safe from development for generations to come?

Why Bennett? And who is Bennett, anyway?

The Reporter found out in an interview with the 29-year-old guiding light behind the community farm that has blossomed at the manor over the last four years. A full story is slated for the issue of Feb. 16, just before the President’s Day Weekend. Audio clips will be posted on this site.

But meanwhile, here is an abridged transcript of what Bennett, a Maine native, said about his first experience at the manor, when he was a Middlebury College student:

When I was freshman in college, the U Mass dig had just started here. There was buzz in family … Middlebury gave credit for summer field school. I was an anthropology—environmental studies-music major. Seemed like amazing opportunity to come down and learn about my family, work an actual archeological dig and really get to meet Alice. who is sort of the link. Because I never knew Andy.

We came down handful of times when I was a little kid. I was 10 when he died.  What I remember is the smell of the gardens. We used to run through gardens and boxwood. Allie would serve Pringles on a platter. We were not allowed to eat Pringles at home. Just amazing. I love Pringles …

[Later, as a college student ….] It was 2001 and I thought that would be a neat thing to go participate in.

Alice said you can stay three days, three weeks or three months when I called her up . Stay as long as you’d like. Which was really amazing because she was … she more a public figure than Andy I think but still that welcome was kind of a big deal …

We got along really well. Backgammon in afternoons after dig, she’d introduce me to people. I had jobs on local farms. In June I was part of dig. O weekends I would go to Quail Hill Farm [in Amagansett] and Green Thumb [another organic farm, in Water Mill]. I started by volunteering and convinced them to hire me.

When the dig was done, I had these jobs … I asked Allie was it all right if I staid through the summer. I was really enjoying myself,. And so I suddenly was the expert on Sylvester Manor in the family, and the one who really loved it here. Nobody else had spent any time here really to speak of.

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