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Future of Celestial Farms in Jacksonville unclear as legal battle rages on

The farm remains closed to the public while new and old management debate a financial issue.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A farm on Jacksonville's Northside will remain closed while management hashes out a legal battle.        

Celestial Farms rescues goats, horses, pigs - farm animals people can't care for anymore. 

"The farm is such a special place to my family because they can come with me," said Celestial Farms Vet Tech Samantha Skelton. "My girls, it's their home away from home, and they love it there."

As much as Skelton loves being the vet tech for the 200 farm animals at Celestial Farm, she's had her hands full the past week or so.

Ever since the farm shut down due to a coronavirus outbreak, she's been on her own making sure all the animals are cared for.

Now, she's the only one allowed in the farm, as both the old management and new management work to keep each other out during a legal dispute.

"I just needed compensation to be able to pay off the bills and walk away," said Former Executive Director Veronica Pasciuto.

Pasciuto started the farm 20 years ago, but decided to step down as executive director in September after her father passed away.

A mortgage payment due at the end of June led to a huge financial dispute between her and new management.

"I couldn't hand the property over with no bills attached," said Pasciuto.

"The balloon mortgage payment is no more than $294,000," said the new Executive Director Rory Malloy. "We have been demanded over $600,000."

The farm started a GoFundMe in April to make that mortgage payment that raised $30,000.

While the battle is hashed out, Malloy says that money is safe.

"If we have any legal way to move forward, we intend to use that money for its intended purpose," said Malloy.

Pasciuto, however, doesn't see a way forward at the moment, and says she's prepared to move the animals to another farm in Georgia.

"We have 30 acres in West Georgia," said Pasciuto. "I hate to take the farm away from the Jacksonville community, but the animals will have a place to live."

"This can't happen," said Malloy. "They have every intention of selling the property for way more than the farm owes on it, and taking the animals."

Old and new management is heading to court, and in the mean time, Skelton is going to make sure the animals remain a priority.

"We just kinda had to start by scratch, take it one by one and get everyone as healthy as we can," said Skelton.

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