Some of the most popular content on social media these days is focused on homesteading, homemaking, and traditional lifestyles that many people in coastal cities would only dream of. In a modern world that is accustomed to seeing two parents working 9-5 jobs, living in a cramped neighborhood, and sending children to a congested school every day, it can be somewhat mesmerizing to encounter the likes of Ballerina Farm, a Utah-based family that lives on a sprawling piece of farmland and raises cattle. Hannah is the wife and mother of seven children and her Instagram page (@ballerinafarm) has more than 3 million followers. She also has almost 3 million followers on TikTok. She's known for posting some of the most engaging, highly watched reels that generate multimillion views. There's something about this family that people just cannot look away from, perhaps because they represent a simpler time—an idyllic version of American life that is seemingly separated from the technological buzz of the urban world.
Who Is Ballerina Farm?
Upon first glance at the Ballerina Farm Instagram page, we're presented with an impossibly beautiful, blonde-haired mother who devotes her whole life to her seven kids and her farm. Hannah is always bare-faced, milking cows, making homemade mozzarella and sourdough, and dancing in the middle of open fields with her beautiful children at her heels. Their life looks kind of like a dream. Hannah's husband is a rancher, she has magical home births, and they sell and ship beef all around the country. Hannah is picturesque—you hardly ever see her with makeup on and her skin is glowing and perfect, she's either wearing a comfortable yet cute pair of overalls or a simple sundress or long skirt. Not to mention all of their children look like they could be Gerber babies.
When you learn a little more about their story, you can see why this family is so attractive to social media consumers. They call themselves "city folk turned ranchers" and Hannah was a professional ballerina who studied at Juilliard School (hence the name Ballerina Farm). She was formerly Miss New York City and she even won Mrs. Utah in 2021—while pregnant! On their website, they share some details about their journey to Utah.
"Daniel and I grew up city kids. We became fascinated with farm life while living abroad in Brazil for Daniel’s work. While most of his co-workers in Brazil would head to the beach on the weekends, we found ourselves venturing inland, marveling at country’s productive farming community."
After seeing the pigs in central Brazil being raised out on open pastures, they couldn't stop thinking about what life would be like if they also gave up their life in the city to raise pigs and cattle. "So after 4 years in Brazil, we came back to the states, bought land and Ballerina Farm was born," the website reads.
You can purchase a meat box of beef or pork, baked goods such as a croissant box, cute merchandise, and even flowers on their website. There are various videos on Hannah's Instagram showing the whole family getting involved with the packing and shipping process. It really seems like the perfect American family business. They've even done sponsored ads with FedEx.
When you peruse through the comments on her reels, you see thousands of people expressing their love for their lifestyle, calling their life "the dreamiest." One person commented, "Watching this seriously makes me emotional. 🤍 Beyond grateful for the life style you have shown on IG. It really is such a inspiration to me and others! Seeing your sweet family contribute to the business reminds me of my childhood." Their lifestyle is a nostalgic one that makes just about anyone fantasize about what it would be like to give everything up in the city and move out into the open country. However, fans have recently discovered a few things about the Ballerina Farm family that has been somewhat unsettling for them.
What Is the Ballerina Farm Controversy?
The terms momfluencing, homefluencing, and even farmfluencing have picked up speed over the last year or two. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, people who were stuck in their small apartments would binge on content from creators like Ballerina Farm, dreaming about days when they could potentially leave behind the urban life for some fresh air. But last year, people came face-to-face with the background of Ballerina Farm.
The matriarch of this picture-perfect family is Hannah Neeleman, a Mormon woman who is married to Daniel Neeleman. While you're used to seeing Daniel in a cowboy hat, herding cattle and riding horses, it turns out he comes from big money. His father is David Neeleman, Brazilian Mormon founder and former CEO of popular JetBlue. He also founded four other airlines: Morris Air, WestJet, Azul Brazilian Airways, and Breeze Airways. His net worth is a whopping $400 million. You can imagine the reaction that many people had when they discovered that Hannah and Daniel have hundreds of millions of dollars backing them.
In November 2021, Hannah posted an Instagram photo and caption about the difficult move they made to Utah. "Daniel and I left the city for farm life 4.5 years ago," she wrote. "With the ink still wet on the real estate contract for our new little farm, we drove to the nearest farm goods store to buy muck boots, overalls, gloves, and straw hats. We had zero experience. Zero background in farming."
Fans have started to accuse Ballerina Farm of using the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" narrative to promote their lifestyle and social media accounts. People weren't happy about the fact that the heir to JetBlue refuses to lead with his generational wealth on Instagram and that his lovely wife won't ever address the fact that they had millions of dollars in resources behind them when they purchased a huge farm.
People have even investigated as to what kind of stove they have in their kitchen. It's an AGA stove that was designed by a Swedish engineer that won the Nobel prize in physics in 1912. "She is a homesteaders dream," Hannah wrote in the caption when she shared the first photo of it on her Instagram. "Her cast iron construction works on the method of heat storage. Because getting her heated to cooking temp takes nearly 2 days, you don't turn her off. She is on 24 hours a day and helps heat our home." Apparently, the stove costs at least $20,000 (if not more) and people did not take kindly to this fact.
As more and more people discover the financial background of the Neeleman family, they have become more disenchanted with their lifestyle, accusing them of being dishonest on social media and lying about where they came from. There are angry comments on Instagram and TikTok about how Ballerina Farm hasn't been upfront. There are various blog posts written about the unfair privilege and advantage that the Neeleman family has and how Hannah represents the problematic "trad wife" figure in our culture. If there's one thing that the current climate of social media demands, it's authenticity. And many people feel like they have not been truthful about where they come from and how they came to own such an idyllic piece of land.
Melanie, an herbalist on Instagram (@vitallymelanie) who often posts about regenerative farming, wrote about the Ballerina Farm controversy on her Stories on Tuesday. "The main concern being expressed by people on social media, is that Ballerina farm is a business built on what seemed to be 'humble beginnings', and now people are finding out they come from money, and many people feel as though this is all a facade. Some people are even going as far as saying this is all a show to make money," she wrote. "Some people are even taking it a step further, and expressing that this family shouldn't be allowed to post content without giving a disclaimer about their wealth. They think that Hannah is making women dream and aspire to a goal that is only possible because she has money, and therefore a ton of help with the children and the business."
She quotes some people's disappointment with finding out that they spend tens of thousands on a stove, millions of dollars buying land in one of the most expensive places in Utah, etc. Ballerina farm as been accused of "glamorizing farm life that they aren't financially dependent on."
Is Ballerina Farm Guilty of Putting on a Facade?
It's hard to believe that so many people were shocked by the fact that the Neeleman family came from money. Homesteading on a huge piece of property out in Utah is not exactly cheap, and it's pretty obvious that it took some resources to begin a life out there, especially when they had to uproot a big family and relocate them. Besides, Hannah has no obligation to her millions of fans to be completely open about her family's financial position. It's not anyone's business how much money the Neelemans have or how much generational wealth they possess. Even if they do come from big money, what's wrong with that? Why do so many people on social media automatically put a negative association on that?
"If Hannah and her husband have access to the wealth people are assuming they have, I find it admirable that they decided to live the life they're living," Melanie continued to write on her Instagram stories. "Imagine having the money to do whatever you want and you decide to raise a family with good values, provide jobs for people, raise food for consumers, and provide wholesome content on social media where more often than not wholesome content is becoming harder and harder to find."
Melanie also disagrees with the notion that Ballerina Farm should disclose where their wealth comes from. "I think people on the internet have become way too comfortable with feeling entitled to knowing personal details of people's lives," she wrote. "Being a consumer of someone's content doesn't grant the right to know people's private details."
Melanie also addressed the claim that Hannah is selling a pipe dream to women and making other moms feel bad about themselves when they compare their life to hers. "Guys, this one isn't on her," Melanie wrote. "This is not he viewer. If her content is making you feel bad or evokes a negative reaction, just unfollow. We need to be more emotionally disciplined on the internet when it comes to what type of content we consume and how it makes us feel."
Even if the Neeleman family has a lot of money—and even if they have a lot of help, although this is just a speculation made by viewers—that doesn't take away from the fact that Hannah is a hard-working mother who spends all her time raising children, farming cattle, and cooking delicious, homemade food for her home. Perhaps there is a level of jealousy that some people feel when watching her life, but instead of chastising her for the success she and her family have had, perhaps we should be inspired and motivated by the life they have created for themselves. In a culture that doesn't put a high value on lifelong marriage and raising multiple children, Hannah and her Ballerina Farm brand have built something truly wholesome that is a net positive for the internet.
Our culture has become far too comfortable with criticizing people for being rich. There's nothing wrong with having money or coming from money. And there's certainly nothing wrong with using that money to create a beautiful homesteading life that creates useful food, products, and content for people all across the country.