Following up on the Mirror’s story on the Little Farm Rescue in Machipongo, our main concern was the fate of the animals that had resided at the rescue. We reached out to the Cooks but did not receive a response. The vacuum of information was filled with rumors about just what had happened to the animals that had been under the Little Farm’s care. Soon after the story was published, the daughter of one of our readers alerted us to an Instagram post that appeared to indicate that one of the horses (Hank) had been rehomed to another rescue, the Red Feather Equine Sanctuary. The Mirror reached out to the sanctuary’s President Allison Bowling to confirm, and received the following email response :
I appreciate your care in following up on the animals after The Little Farm’s closure… I wish all animals had such a devoted following. We do indeed have “Handsome Hank” as well as two other horses from TLF, Pockets and Dixie. Their 34-year-old pasture mate, Hershey, also came with them but sadly passed away from natural causes just two weeks ago.
Someone actually sent me the article published in the Cape Charles Mirror and I have been meaning to reach out with my experience. I met Katie early last year – we were introduced by another equine sanctuary after Katie had begun looking for reputable organizations to take over TLF’s residents. Katie was very concerned about the placement options for Hershey, Pockets and Dixie mentioned above. They were a bonded trio of senior horses which would be extremely hard to place given the fact that most horse rescues consistently operate at or over capacity. We had an open pasture for them, but no shelter. Katie donated a $9,500 run-in to shelter so that we could take all three horses and keep them together on our property.
In August, a volunteer and I drove to Machipongo and filled our truck and horse trailer with donated supplies including troughs, stall fans, feeders, crates, halters/lead ropes, horse panels, etc. A few months later, Katie and I remained in touch and I mentioned that we could make space for Hank to enter our training program. Katie was extremely excited about this, as his only other placement option was in New Jersey, and she was worried how he would do in NJ’s extreme temperatures. She paid the transport costs to bring Hank to our facility. Several of TLF’s followers have moved their financial support to our organization, including Gwyn Coghill, who I recall being mentioned in the Cape Charles Mirror article. Gwyn and others are in frequent contact with us and remain engaged in the animals’ welfare.
The point of sharing this information is to say that my experience with Katie involved months and months of cautious and careful planning regarding animal placement, which included networking and consultation with many other East Coast organizations. Katie donated equipment, shed row barns, supplies and shelters to several 501c3 nonprofits. In my view, she worked exceptionally hard to responsibly close TLF’s operations. I never asked her why she made the decision to close TLF, as it came across as a personal matter and it was not my place to pry, however, I never once got the impression that the circumstances were anything other than above-board.
I completely support the public’s interest in protecting the animals, as well as verifying the proper use of donor funds. There are ways to attain this information without engaging in salacious attacks which are presumptive of some wrongdoing. The comments I read in response to the Mirror article were hurtful and accusatory. Katie is a human being, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a fellow animal rescuer… a person who deserves dignity and respect. I am confident that your research will prove her to be the person I know her to be.
After receiving this news, we were confident the other animals had found similar homes but still wanted confirmation. The Mirror reached out to Lester Cook at his business location, essentially begging for any information he could provide:
After you guys left the Shore, we have been fielding all kinds of questions and allegations about the Little Farm. On our end, we were hoping to one day run a nice story on the work. There are rumors and all kinds of things floating around and we just want to get the details straight. Mainly, why was the Little Farm moved off of the Shore, and is there a way to account for the animals that were rehomed after the move? We really hope to get your side of the story so we can put to rest all of the mystery, and just get the facts out there. I attempted to contact Katie but have not received a response. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
We did not receive a response from Mr. Cook, but did get an inventory of the animals from the Cook’s attorney:
A list of some of the recent placements is as follows:
Sheep- Sweet Farm- Freddy, Shea, Elvis, Peewee, Sally
Emery Farm- Luna, Romeo, Sophie, Matilda
Woodstock C/O private placement in network- Belle, Isla
Uncle Neils Home- Moose, Fig
Fawns Fortress- Brad, Dandelion, Otto, Brooke
Gentle Acres- Marla, Nicholas, Annabelle
Goats- Emery Farm- Alice, Rafa, Eli
Sweet Farm- Greta, Ringo, Astrid, Earl
Gentle Acres- Roxie, Phoenix
Peaceful Fields- Maggie, Baby Louis
Private home (Katie) Kitty, Mo
Pigs- Private Home (Katie) Ruby, Ramona
Potbelly Crew (12)- Kelly C/O Lailas Legacy
Alpaca- Laila’s Legacy- Eric, Chloe
Cows-Skylands Sanctuary- Fay, Matilda, Anna
Horses-Red Feather- Handsome Hank, Dixie, Hershey, Pockets
Last Chance Ranch- Pia, Walter, Bruno
Private Home (We are all rescues)- Enzo
Maddy and Svens- Milla, Osian, Bodhi, Agnes, Margot, Harry (Donkeys)
Little Woods- Ruth, Frankie
Queen Cobra (Chloe)- Little Bill, Annie
Bluemont Equine Sanctuary- Winnie
Rising Star- Mia, Riggs
Private home (Katie)- Gus, Oliver, George
Chickens, Ducks, Goose- Woodstock Sanctuary- 5 ducks, 1 goose, 2 chickens
Piedmont- 12 chickens
Here with Us- 8 chickens, 2 roosters
Private home (Katie)- 5 chickens
The Cook’s attorney also provided this statement:
Requested Update on The Little Farm Rescue and Sanctuary – a 501(c)(3)
The Little Farm in Ojai (“The Little Farm”) was organized as a non-profit public benefit corporation on February 22, 2018. It obtained 501(c)(3) status effective April 6, 2018. The mission was to provide education about the treatment of abused and neglected farms animals as well as to provide care where possible. A name change was recorded on April 29, 2021, officially changing the name of the corporation to The Little Farm Rescue and Sanctuary.
In the spring of 2021, The Little Farm expanded operations and occupied land in Machipongo, Virginia. In 2022 it became necessary to transition some of the work performed by The Little Farm and those activities were documented on social media. As it has since 2018, The Little Farm took great care to transition and support the needs of the animals under its care and to educate its supporters and the community as to its mission and the transition process.
The Little Farm remains a viable non-profit entity in good standing with a current 501(c)3 designation pursuant to the applicable sections of the Internal Revenue Code. It has maintained all proper filings with the Internal Revenue Service and will continue to do so moving forward. To this day, neither the Shareholder, nor any Board Members (or workers for that matter) received payment for services performed on behalf of The Little Farm and contributions always supported operations, the animals, and necessary third-party vendors such as veterinarians and other specialty services.
Although The Little Farm is reassessing its place in Virginia and may occupy land in another location, the mission to educate on the abuse and neglect of farm animals continues, along with the commitment to help rescue and care for those in need. Moving forward, in making plans for its future, The Little Farm is determined to stop accepting donations, at least into the first half of 2023. This seemed a prudent measure in response to the impending period of re-examination.
We will advise our supporters of our plans and progress but wish to maintain a healthy distance from those who seek injury and harm. The Little Farm may not comment further in any particular forum, but it feels the need to note that any claims of criminal behavior, self-dealing, or other scurrilous comment are damaging, false, and utterly without merit.
To those who made contributions, we say “thank you” from the bottom of our hearts. We are grateful that you cared enough to support the mission and the animals we rescued and so lovingly cared for.
With sincere appreciation,
The Little Farm Rescue and Sanctuary
Untangling the mystery of the Little Farm animals provided much-needed relief for animal advocates that were genuinely stressed about their fate. The Mirror appreciates the information that was provided. For others, there are still questions about funding, donations, and the exit from the Shore. In part 2, we hope to provide the same level of clarity on the financial aspect which is still a source of consternation for some Eastern Shore residents.
Don Green says
The Cooks’ lawyer’s statement quoted in The Mirror’s second article is a start at explaining the circumstances of Mrs. Cook’s solicitation of contributions, but it is full of gaps. We are still left with their abrupt departure and their virtual silence about the circumstances surrounding it. FIRST: “In 2022 it became necessary to transition some of the work performed by The Little Farm, and these activities were documented on social media. … The Little Farm took great care … to educate its supporters and the community as to its mission and the transition process.” THIS STATEMENT IS SIMPLY INCORRECT. Though Mrs. Cook’s Facebook posts have been erased, none of TLF’s later posts contained anything but the vaguest indication of a “transition”. Certainly, there was no indication that the Cooks had listed their PRIVATELY OWNED property in Northampton for sale at apparently double its purchase price; nowhere, whether in Facebook posts or in private e-mail messages to me, personally, did Mrs. Cook state that they were moving from Northampton County, VA to Franklin, Tennessee. Had the Cooks been more open and honest in their relationships to contributors, the dozens of questions cited in the Mirror’s two articles would never have surfaced. SECOND: “The Little Farm remains a viable non-profit entity in good standing …. It has maintained all proper filings with the Internal Revenue Service.” To the best of my knowledge, no other person has been able to unearth the charitable filings referenced in the Cooks’ lawyer’s statement. The best way to prove that the filings exist is to PUBLISH THEM, rather than just stating that they exist. I have repeatedly asked Mrs. Cook, and subsequently, her lawyer, to substantiate the fact that my large 2022 contributions qualify as charitable contributions. To date, I have received no satisfaction at all.. Moreover, in 2021 I contributed a total of $3,500 to TLF over a period of 11 months; the Cooks never sent me an acknowledgement of these 2021 contributions. Why, if TLF’s charitable status exists, is it so difficult for the Cooks to perform their duties to acknowledge the donations of contributors as actual CHARITABLE contributions?
THIRD: “Although The Little Farm is reassessing its place in Virginia and may occupy land in another location …..” REASSESSING? The Little Farm has already moved out of Virginia, having left sometime in late 2022. If the Cooks sell their privately-owned property for the listed price, they will have doubled what they paid for it. “Reassessing” gives the term “euphemism” new meaning.
FINALLY, and perhaps inevitably, the Cooks’ attorney has transformed her clients into victims: “We … want to maintain a healthy distance from those who seek injury and harm.” Neither the Mirror’s editor nor any contributor has exhibited any wish to harm the Cooks; all concerned, whether contributor, editor, or interested bystander, want only ANSWERS, which the Cooks have completely failed to provide. Their failure even to acknowledge that they closed down their “charitable” operation in Virginia and their refusal so far even to substantiate the many donations they received to be real charitable contributions leaves most of us with the same questions existing at the publication of the Mirror’s first article almost a month ago.
Scott Cottrell says
My name is Scott Cottrell and I had the honor and pleasure of being the Farrier that worked with Katie and crew in caring for their animals. I visited TLF at least twice a month (spending hours at each visit) and was always impressed at the quality and quantity of work done on behalf of the very lucky animals in their care- those animals won the lottery when they came under Katies charge. Katie and Les worked tirelessly on behalf of their animals …the life of an animal rescue manager is one of totally selfless service and commitment to their cause. These wonderful souls must deal with rising costs and uncertain budgets – all things completely out of their control. My hat is off to all of them.
To all who wonder if their contributions were well spent – your support to TLF made a world of difference in the lives of every animal Katie and Les touched. You should feel very good about your contributions….as I do. While I cannot answer questions re dotted “I’s”and crossed “t’s” re their charity I can speak as to what I saw over the time TLF was on the Eastern Shore – what I saw was selfless service and love for every animal in their charge. I am very proud to have worked with Katie and Les and am on lucky to have known them. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.