A pageant queen, 8 kids and a billion-dollar fortune: The controversy of Ballerina Farm.

Right now, mumfluencer Hannah Neeleman is having a moment. 

The content creator with over 13.2 million followers across TikTok and Instagram, recently welcomed her eighth child, in a home birth surrounded by her husband and children.

Hannah and her family call Ballerina Farm home. They are ranchers. And it's on this ranch, in Utah, that they not only sell meat and produce, but also their wholesome existence. A life lived by the seasons; they milk cows, raise pigs, grow fresh vegetables. Their kids, dressed in neutrals, run through the sun-drenched fields. Hannah is the perfect homesteader.

What many don't know, however, is that Hannah and her husband Daniel are heirs to a billion-dollar fortune.

And as more eyes veer towards Ballerina Farm, the more the controversies seem to crop up. Now internet 'sleuths' and sub-Reddit forums are obsessed with examining exactly how the Neelemans have this Insta-perfect farmers' life.

So how and why did we get here?

Watch a clip of Hannah Neeleman here. Post continues below. 

Video via Instagram @ballerinafarm.

How did Ballerina Farm start?

It didn't begin with farming for Hannah Neeleman and her husband Daniel. 


If anything, their story begins standing at a ranch in Brazil. They're city kids, Hannah and Daniel, who married in 2011. She's a Julliard-trained ballerina and he is a graduate with a masters in business.

The pair were living in South America for Daniel's job, with their two sons, Henry and Charles, and they were fascinated – no, obsessed – with farm life

And on one particular weekend, they found themselves venturing inland, as they often did, so they could explore the thriving farming communities Brazil has to offer.

On that day, they were being led through impressive cattle operations by a skilled farmer while pigs rolled around at their feet. 

Daniel couldn't tear his eyes away from the sows and barrows. Instead of being confined to stalls and cages, they were roaming openly alongside the cattle, and eating mushy pieces of guava, cashew and star fruit that fall from the trees above them. 

So when Hannah and Daniel returned to the United States, four years after moving to Brazil, they bought some farmland. They were set on making the kind of life for their family that they saw on their travels.

At this point, they had three boys (Henry, Charles and George) and a girl – Frances – on the way (they later welcomed daughters Lois, Martha and Mabel, and currently have an eighth child on the way).

Hannah and Daniel Neeleman. Image: Instagram @ballerinafarm.


The pair had no experience in ranching or any knowledge of living on a farm, but it didn't deter them from trying... really, really hard. 

They decided to call their new land Ballerina Farm, after Hannah, who documented their journey into farm life online with glee. Fans watched them make mistakes, spend hours toiling over seemingly simple problems, and their children grow in both size and in number.

"We didn't know what we were doing – and we still don't, so everything takes twice as long and we make four times the mistakes of other farmers," Hannah told Utah Farm Bureau in 2021.


"There are a lot of sacrifices – emotional sacrifices, physical sacrifices, but that is [the case] for anyone who goes from a life they're familiar with to a completely unfamiliar one," she said. "Before we had the animals, it was just this idea of a farm and raising our kids, and raising the pigs, and it was all just this happy farm life that we created in our minds... but the reality is that's not how it works."

The pair went on to take farm management and marketing courses, watch plenty of tutorials on YouTube, and invest time and money – so much money – into carving out the perfect niche for their new life.

This perhaps should've been where Hannah and Daniel's story ends – with their 100 acres of countryside land in Birdseye, Utah, that they bought and renovated to construct the life they had envisioned; their dream ranch.

Months later though, the Pole Creek Fire – a fire caused by lightning that impacted three counties in Utah and led to the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes and around 6,000 people in 2018 – took more than the family had bargained for, and despite being given the clear to go home to the city, they decided they'd outgrown the land.

"We have made the heart-wrenching decision to move Ballerina Farm to a different farm... The new farm will be able to hold more pigs and will help us expand our growing herd of cattle," Hannah wrote on Instagram in 2018. 


"At the end of the day, we wanted to do what was best for our little family and Ballerina Farm. And don't worry, plenty of mountains and lots more snow where we're going!"

Hannah and Daniel Neeleman announced they were moving to a new farm in 2018. Image: Instagram @ballerinafarm.

Hannah and Daniel ended up buying more than 300 acres of land in Kamas, Utah, with infrastructure that includes working barns, corrals and water rights.


It's where Ballerina Farm was born again. They sold beef and pork raised and bred on their own land, along with merch, which includes denim aprons, sourdough starter kids, wooden spoons, copper cups and water bottles and of course, hats with emblems.

Around this time, Hannah began documenting her experience of competing as Mrs. Utah (while several months pregnant with her eighth child) in the Mrs. USA pageant. She's a simple woman. Graceful. Beautiful. Bouncy. Blonde. She wanted to spread her love of Christianity, and defend her religion fiercely on a major stage.

She's the perfect, traditional wife.

She would create mozzarella from scratch, rip large, ripe tomatoes from her own garden, and tug at lilac branches with her cherub-faced toddler in one arm and a pair of gardening scissors in the other.

Hannah and Daniel Neeleman's family. Image: Instagram @ballerinafarm.


The internet ate it up. They gushed over her sons in their adorable cowboy getups and the babies who bounced around at her feet. They liked that she appeared on camera with her hair undone, and her face free of any makeup. 

She seemed the ideal woman, in many ways: She embraces tradition, she cooks from scratch. She loves her children and serves her husband.

She is the epitome of the maternal ideal – one most could never hope to live up to, Sarah Petersen wrote in her newsletter, In Pursuit of Clean Countertops.

"Neeleman is the embodiment of a maternal ideal wholly impossible for most of us to attain. She's the Gwyneth of mums, the Barbie of mums, the Martha Stewart of mums," said Sarah. 

"This is why we stumble over ourselves trying to ascertain how many babysitters are lurking behind the scenes, why we comb Reddit threads looking for context clues, why we continuously ask ourselves what is up with all things [Ballerina Farm]."

Their lives were perfect. Too perfect.


The Ballerina Farm controversy.

In all Hannah's videos, where she kneads her own bread and blends her homemade pesto for her children, a mighty green cooker stove stands proudly behind her. It's not immediately obvious, but after a few videos of Hannah went viral, viewers began to get curious. 

Then, earlier this year, super sleuths figured out that particular model costs around US$30,000.

It's worth mentioning the family bought it second-hand (which still costs thousands), but by the time clarifications were pointed out, it was already too late... because social media is a temperamental beast.

It didn't take long for internet sleuths' TikTok videos to go viral. The videos pointing out that their family is backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, which allows them to live quite comfortably.

The AGA stovetop is how a lot of people eventually learned about Hannah and her family's finances. Their mighty but humble stove, which never turns off and runs on propane year-round, makes it clear Hannah and Daniel are no ordinary farm family – in fact, it turns out they are heirs to a billion-dollar fortune.

It's thanks to Daniel, whose father is David Gary Neeleman and the founder of major airlines including Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, Azul Brazilian Airlines, and Breeze Airways.

The 'problem' isn't the immense wealth behind the family itself; for many, it's the Neelemans' lack of transparency, their failure to disclose that their 'humble' farm life isn't quite as humble after all.


Chip McGregor, who's behind Grassfed Cooperative (a food system that connects Grassfed cattle farms with customers), said in a now-viral TikTok video he understands why Ballerina Farm gets the criticism they do. 

"From my perspective, a person who was raised by poor subsistence farmers, this is the problem... Ballerina Farm is essentially dressing up like my mum and my aunts and all these ranch women over time that raised me," he said in February 2023. 

"But the women that raised me were making their own bread from their own starters and were butchering animals out in their garage and were doing all of these homesteader things. They were doing that because they were in an economy that would not support them shopping in towns. 

"That airline that's supporting Ballerina Farms? That's what is chasing people off to the farm to be homesteaders. So I can see why she'd get a little backlash for that."

Their success almost feels like it was imminent in retrospect. It somehow seems to make sense that a family so righteous, who toil on their land despite being so wealthy, gets to have their cake and eat it too.

Critics are convinced that what they have not shared with their audience tells us much more about the family than what they have, though.

"They're not feigning normalcy in the direction of middle-income people," says Meg Conley. "They're feigning normalcy in the direction of very upper-income people. Buying a 328-acre ranch for millions of dollars to start a direct-to-consumer beef business is not normal."


Elsewhere, Conley adds that being evasive about their "immense resources" is disingenuous. 

"Just say, 'We come from a family with immense resources. We're so lucky. We wanted to raise animals with all that good luck. Isn't that kind of cooler than building a mansion with a movie room?'" she suggests. 

"But the evasiveness on this point is not ultimately destroying me. They've got a brand story and they're sticking to it... They are not living off of [the land]. I wish they'd stop pretending they were. Because so many people who do live off the land are in such a desperate state.

"When Ballerina Farm pretends their reality is reality, those people are erased."

In any case, Hannah and Daniel have not addressed any of the criticism. It's unlikely they ever will. 

With almost seven million followers on Instagram and another six million on the Ballerina Farm TikTok account, it's safe to say the pair are only benefitting from the attention they're receiving, no matter the capacity.

They might not need the money that comes with being part of an attention economy, but it sure is nice. Don't ya think?

Feature Image: Instagram @ballerinafarm.

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