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Land Ho

The tradwife is pioneer burlesque

A woman prepares a snack for her family while her youngest child, an eight-month-old named Mabel Mae, looks on from her high chair. She pours milk into a Dutch oven from a glass jar almost as big as the baby girl beside her, heats it to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and mixes in citric acid. Off to the side, a blonde girl in a pink dress—Frances, age six, the woman’s fourth child and eldest daughter—tends to her baby sister. The woman checks the milk’s temperature, lets it sit until it congeals. She slices the curd into half-inch cubes, stirs it into a runny mixture, adds salt. Black rubber gloves materialize on her hands, and she plunges them into the pot, picking up the cheese she’s made out of almost nothing, forming it into a ball, stretching it as if it were saltwater taffy.

Then she moves on to the meatballs. The woman dices onions, garlic. She pours breadcrumbs into another jar, stirs in fresh cream. She sautés the onions in butter, puts a mound of ground beef in a bowl, pours the soggy breadcrumbs over it, and cracks in two eggs with yolks so golden they’re almost orange. She chops fresh basil, then grinds in some pepper and mixes it all together with a wooden whisk. She opens another glass jar—this one full of tomato sauce, almost certainly homemade—and empties its contents into a cast-iron pan. The woman shapes the beef into seventeen fist-sized balls and plops them into the sauce one by one, sprinkling Parmesan on top. She puts the pan into a rustic green oven that stays on day and night, constantly radiating heat.

Then she dusts the wooden countertop before her with flour, and a bowl of risen dough appears miraculously. She forms it into two baguettes and puts those in the oven too. All the while, her children cycle in and out of frame. The girls help roll the dough, play with the whisk, and nibble at the cheese once it’s ready. But mostly they watch, thumbs in mouths, as their mother works. The boys do nothing. The woman never looks up from her task, never stains her white T-shirt, and never appears flustered, not even when the kids shriek in the background or when her long braid unravels down her back.

In the end, her labor yields one single large sandwich. She takes the first bite. The second is for her husband, absent until this moment; the third is for one of their sons. Just like its preparation, the consumption of the meatball sub was a family effort. The couple in this video, Hannah and Daniel Neeleman, live on a 328-acre ranch in Kamas, Utah, with their seven children. The milk used to make the mozzarella came from one of their dairy cows, the ground beef from their herd of Angus cattle, the eggs from their chicken coop, and the basil from their garden. Hannah milks the cows, and Daniel raises the animals, while their sons and daughters help out with farm chores and collect the eggs every morning. Daniel butchers the meat, and Hannah cooks it. The family always eats together.

The Neelemans want you to know that you, too, can live like this. In fact, they’ll give you the tools. Their ranch, Ballerina Farm, is so named because Hannah is a Juilliard-trained ballerina who danced in New York City in another life, the one that came before the babies and the homestead, and she still dances at every opportunity: in the barn after a long day of chores, in the living room of her century-old farmhouse, in the pasture surrounded by cows and sagebrush. The Neelemans sell not only direct-to-consumer meat but also the cookware Hannah uses in her own kitchen and the aprons she dons to protect her clothing from stains. Ballerina Farm fans can buy a baggie of dehydrated sourdough starter named Willa ($18), a white oak cutting board ($87), a bench scraper ($15), a wooden farm whisk ($16) or spatula ($17), a Ballerina Farm-branded cast-iron skillet ($39), and ground beef from cows raised by the ballerina herself ($110 for ten pounds or $220 for twenty, divided into vacuum-sealed one-pound bags “for easy thawing and quick meals”). The cooking videos Hannah posts weekly for her over twelve million followers on Instagram and TikTok are advertisements for these wares, and for her life—some assembly required, husband and children not included.

Country Life

This is the story the Neelemans tell: they grew up “city kids,” Hannah in Utah and Daniel in Connecticut. They met in college and got engaged after just three weeks. Hannah always wanted to be a mother and claims she was the first pregnant Juilliard undergraduate “in modern history.” After graduation, the family moved to Brazil for Daniel’s job. While visiting a ranch there, Daniel decided he wanted to give up his corporate career and become a farmer. They returned to the United States, spent three years looking for farmland until they found the right place in 2017, and lived there for a little over a year before outgrowing it and moving to their current ranch. Now, they run a family farm that they built from the ground up. The children ride horses and four-wheelers, wear cowboy hats and prairie dresses. They go to church on Sundays. Hannah and Daniel dance in the fields and the barn together, and they’re all the best of friends.

To the conspiracy-minded, tradlife is the ultimate form of resistance to elite social control.

These are the details the Neelemans leave out: Daniel’s father is an airline tycoon who, among other things, founded JetBlue and oversaw the privatization of TAP Air, formerly owned and operated by the Portuguese government. Daniel’s first job, the one for which he moved his young family to Brazil, was the directorship of a home security company called Vigzul, also founded by the elder Neeleman. When the family moved back to the States so Daniel could fulfill his dream of becoming a hog farmer while attending business school at the University of Utah, he retained his seat on the board of another security company. This isn’t exactly unusual; small farmers increasingly struggle to make ends meet, and as of 2017, 56 percent of farmers held primary, nonagricultural jobs. What is unusual is the type of job Daniel has held.

Why Ballerina Farm’s public-facing origin story obscures the Neeleman family wealth isn’t difficult to understand. It’s much harder to convince ordinary people to buy into a lifestyle when they know it has been funded by airline millions, especially if that lifestyle champions simplicity and frugality. When, in 2018, a fan asked Hannah how her family could afford their farm life, she provided a technically honest answer that nonetheless obscured the whole truth: “I’m full-time farm, but Daniel still has a job,” she wrote. “We are working towards both of us being full-time farm.” Another follower thanked Hannah for showing him that it could be done. “Really encouraging to read this! My wife, three-year-old son and I are going into our fifth year of production and have rented land up until this point,” he wrote. “Great financially and for starting our business, but we are ready for our own land. We want to be able to farm exactly how we like, but also have something we can pass down to our children or to another young passionate farming couple when we’re old and gray.”

If we can do it, Ballerina Farm’s posts imply, then so can you.

Domestic Bliss

The word tradwife—a portmanteau of traditional wife that refers to women who eschew feminist values in favor of homemaking, child-rearing, and other conventional domestic pursuits—is not part of the Ballerina Farm lexicon, but Hannah Neeleman is its platonic ideal. She is a dutiful wife and mother; a talented cook; blonde, beautiful, and modest; and thin despite having delivered nearly a child a year for a decade, all but one of whom were born at home. She is willing to follow her husband wherever his career takes him, even if that means giving up her own; she is willing to support his passions, even if that means trading her pointe shoes for cowboy boots. She not only takes care of the children but protects them from anything that could corrupt their bodies, minds, and souls: their meals are cooked from scratch with farm-fresh ingredients, their schooling is conducted on the ranch. Unlike many of their imitators, however, Ballerina Farm’s content is not explicitly political, for good reason. Any public proclamation of the Neelemans’ beliefs, whatever they may be, would surely alienate a portion of their audience. But the words Hannah does use to describe her lifestyle are a clarion call to those who know what to listen for: living off the land is “natural,” sourdough bread is a “God-given marvel,” and the hogs they raise are “real heritage pork, the way great grandma remembers it.”

Hannah doesn’t have to call herself a tradwife because she already is one. As such, Ballerina Farm has become the lodestar for those still aspiring to establish an aesthetically pleasing—and, ideally, monetized—pastoral existence. Most of her acolytes are less subtle about their politics, which they assume Hannah shares. In 2021, Morgan Zegers, the founder of the Turning Point USA-affiliated group Young Americans Against Socialism, said that Ballerina Farm gives her “DAILY inspiration on how to live out my values as a Conservative.” On her podcast, Zegers, who recently got engaged and does not have any children, gives “young unmarried women who dream of becoming a traditional wife and stay-at-home mom one day” advice on how to “become an asset for your future family.”

She is far from the only tradwife-in-training who has been inspired by Ballerina Farm. Take Gwen the Milkmaid, a Canadian “ASMRtist” and wellness-influencer-turned-tradposter. “Pov: you used to be a pro-abortion, anti-marriage, lesbian ‘feminist,’” reads the caption on a TikTok post of her rehydrating sourdough starter, “but now you’re getting married to your fav man on earth, love serving him, and can’t wait to make babies.” Like Hannah, Gwen is blonde, posts videos of herself cooking and frolicking in prairie dresses, and emphasizes the difference between her old life and the new one she has built for herself—or, rather, the life she hopes to have built, someday. In one video, Gwen asks God “why I don’t have a fifty-acre farm, seven children, forty chickens and five jersey cows yet.” Lacking a multimillionaire father-in-law, or a dairy cow of her own, she’s forced to churn store-bought cream into homemade butter. Gwen’s videos turn the subtext of Ballerina Farm’s videos into text, as if to compensate for the ranch she lacks: Gwen is proudly antigovernment, antivaccine, and anti-birth control.

Ballerina Farm has also been frequently boosted by Evie Magazine. Billing itself as the conservative answer to Cosmo, Evie publishes articles on everything from “How to Wear Shorts Like a French Girl” to the supposedly rampant child sex trafficking to which the Biden administration has turned a blind eye. In February, they responded to a minor scandal that broke out when details about the Neelemans’ family wealth began circulating on TikTok. The article ends with a full-throated defense of Ballerina Farm. “Our culture has become far too comfortable with criticizing people for being rich,” it reads. “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.” For Evie, the Neelemans’ secret wealth isn’t proof that living off the land is largely inaccessible to the masses but a symbol of the virtuousness of Ballerina Farm’s mission. They have enough money to live glamorously; instead, they choose to live a simple life. That this simple life might be an expensive illusion is never considered.

A month later, the magazine published a treatise on tradwives by Gina Florio, a personal trainer who moonlights as manager to Candace Owens, a conservative commentator whose BLEXIT foundation urged Black people to abandon the Democratic Party. (Owens has also promoted Ballerina Farm on Instagram. Hannah, for her part, reposted the endorsement and later deleted it.) Like Gwen the Milkmaid, Florio is a reformed liberal who wrote for Teen Vogue and PopSugar before she “left the left.” Tradwives, she argues, are superior to “the shrieking, blue-haired protester who wants on-demand abortion and supports the ‘free the nipple’ movement.” She describes Ballerina Farm as the example on which conservative women should model their lives: “The children are blonde and seemingly well-mannered. The father herds cattle in a cowboy hat. And the mother is impossibly beautiful as she milks cows in her overalls, loose braids, and zero makeup.” This is all in contrast to “the average twenty-five-year-old woman” who “lacks basic domestic skills, serially dates multiple men, and loudly opposes manners and decorum.”

To her credit, Florio acknowledges that it’s functionally impossible for most women—even those who want nothing more than to dedicate their entire lives to caring for a husband and children—to fulfill the tradwife ideal. She points out that real wages have stagnated since the 1970s, making it impossible to raise a family on a single income. “We have to really ask ourselves if we want to truly return to tradition,” Florio writes, “or if we want to just fantasize about the perfect trad wife who is both gorgeous and domestic.”

The Great Reset

Florio’s summary of the “perfect trad wife” is missing one important characteristic: beyond her flowing linens and huddle of towheaded children, a tradwife is also passionate about nutrition, a fierce guardian of her family’s physical health. This is especially important to those on the right who see what they eat as a reflection of their values and believe that the powers that be would rather see them incapacitated by their diets. Like mainstream women’s magazines, Evie regularly publishes articles on cooking and nutrition. But unlike anything printed in Women’s Health or Vogue, these articles often veer into conspiracy theories about a consortium of nameless elites plotting to slowly poison us through the food supply. An article titled “The Real Reason Raw Milk Is Banned” ends by speculating that “they want us to be sick so they can sell us patented cures made in a lab rather than supporting health by eating well and having an active lifestyle.” A subsequent article touting the health benefits of unpasteurized milk credits Ballerina Farm for putting “a whole new sexy spin on dairy” and declares that we’ve “been made to believe that raw milk is dangerous to society.” A seemingly evenhanded piece on lab-grown meat links to an Instagram post by an account called @self_reliance_in_the_suburbs calling synthetic meat “a tactic to deem all meat unethical so we are forced to eat lab-grown fake food.”

“You will live in a pod, eat bugs, own nothing, and be happy.”

Biological difference is imperative for Evie, and women must attend to it by policing everything that goes into their body. The magazine’s implicit message is that tradwives are not performing some kind of hyper-femininity but merely embracing their innate feminine qualities, which elites have attempted to alter or erode through interventions such as birth control, vaccines, and hormone-disrupting processed foods. To be truly healthy, Evie tells its readers, women should ditch the pill, stop cooking with seed oils, and assiduously tailor their diet and exercise routines to the four phases of their menstrual cycle. Conveniently, the magazine offers its own period tracking app, which received seed funding from Peter Thiel’s investment firm in 2022.

Evie’s juxtaposition of diet tips, birth control condemnations, and anti-globalist signaling marks the publication as a stop along what historian Kathleen Belew has dubbed the “crunchy to alt-right pipeline.” Evie doesn’t just encourage its readers to purify their lives; it also repeatedly emphasizes that medical professionals and politicians have colluded to keep them from learning the truth about the physical and psychological risks of potato chips and pharmaceuticals. “It can take a lot of unlearning when it comes to nutrition, because unfortunately we have simply been given the wrong information for a long time,” one post reads. A 2022 article outlining “Eleven Times The World Economic Forum Proved It Was Sketchy AF” makes this point more explicitly, claiming that if the elites who descend on Davos each January get their way, regular people will be forced to get our protein from bugs.

This last assertion is a reference to the WEF’s Great Reset initiative. Announced in June 2020, the Great Reset was an exhortation to use the pandemic as an opportunity to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development. To the Covid-skeptical right, however, it was proof that global elites had manufactured Covid-19 to control and enslave the masses. Around the time that vaccines became available to the public, some on the far right started claiming that (((they))) would soon compel us to eat insects. The theory was based on an uncharitable reading of a handful of publications from the last decade about alternative protein sources. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published Edible Insects, a book about “the benefits that insect farming could potentially have on the environment and on addressing the rapidly increasing demand for food worldwide,” as writer Richard Matthews put it. The WEF has discussed bug protein since at least 2016, but their posts failed to garner much attention until the onset of the pandemic. “The ‘Great Reset’ is about enacting a drastic reduction in living standards for the plebs which will force them to put bugs, weeds and sewage on the menu while the Davos elites continue to feast on the finest cuisine,” Paul Joseph Watson wrote in December 2020. This image proved to be a sticky one. “First they’re going to tell you that eating insects isn’t at all weird,” libertarian commentator Greg Gutfeld said in a 2022 Fox News segment, “then they’re going to tell you it’s normal to eat insects. And then finally, you’re racist if you don’t eat insects.”

A week after Gutfeld’s outburst, Eagle Forum, the conservative lobbying group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, published an excerpt from climate change denier Marc Morano’s latest book, The Great Food Reset: Global Elites and the Permanent Lockdown. Food shortages caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Morano argues, were part of the globalist plan to control hardworking, everyday people. “A food crisis is just the ticket for even more chaos that the WEF can exploit for their Reset agenda,” he writes. Around that same time, a fake screenshot of a tweet purportedly posted on the official World Economic Forum account started making the rounds on social media. “When being anti-bug is bigotry: billions of people across the world eat insects as part of their daily diet,” it read. “We ask: is it racist to not want to transition to a bug-based diet? 😋🦗”

This specific strain of anti-globalist fervor was by no means limited to the United States, and as it went international, the conspiracy’s white nationalist undertones became clear. After the Dutch government released a proposal in the summer of 2022 outlining its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50 percent by 2030, in part by reducing the country’s livestock population, farmers protested by lighting hay bales on fire, covering roads in manure, and blocking government buildings with tractors. In an interview with Tucker Carlson, far-right Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek claimed her government was using climate change as a pretext to eradicate traditional Dutch culture. “They’re doing this because they want these farmers’ land and they want it to house new immigrants,” Vlaardingerbroek said. “They also want it because the farmers are obviously standing in the way of the Great Reset plans that they have for us.”

Great Resetters like to throw around a phrase, often pronounced in an exaggerated German accent to mock Klaus Schwab, chairman of the WEF: “You will live in a pod, eat bugs, own nothing, and be happy.” It’s derived from an essay titled “Welcome to 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy and Life Has Never Been Better.” The piece, originally published in 2016 by a Danish Social Democrat on the World Economic Forum’s blog, was largely ignored until proponents of the Great Reset conspiracy held it up as proof of the long-term globalist agenda to strip people of their rights and their private property. The author later clarified that the essay was not “a utopia or dream of the future” but rather “a scenario showing where we could be heading—for better and for worse.”

The WEF’s annual gathering in Davos, during which CEOs and tech moguls rub shoulders with world leaders across the political spectrum for the supposed benefit of ordinary citizens, can make it difficult to outright debunk conspiracy theories like the Great Reset. This year’s summit featured a video call from Henry Kissinger, addresses on green energy by oil executives, and a speech from Senator Kyrsten Sinema explaining why she was right to oppose eliminating the filibuster. It’s understandable that those watching from home might wonder whether the people who have overseen decades of disastrous political intervention, environmental destruction, flat wages, and political stagnation have our best interests at heart.

Likewise, there is plenty of legitimate reason to cast a critical eye on the average American diet, 60 percent of which is made up of ultraprocessed foods. Recent studies have suggested that there is a link between these products—which have long been known to contribute to diabetes, obesity, and some cancers—and depression and anxiety. The manufacturers that produce these foods have also optimized them to be addictive, adding sugar or salt until they reach the supposedly irresistible “bliss point.”

And even if we aren’t eating insects yet, quality of life is in decline by some metrics. Just over half of American millennials owned their homes as of 2022, and 25 percent of those who live in rentals said they fear they’ll never be able to afford property of their own. In 2021, 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure. That year, 87 percent of counties with high rates of food insecurity were rural. Rural communities also have more suicides per capita than urban communities, largely due to a lack of resources and significant barriers to mental health care. Already, a growing number of Americans go hungry, own nothing, and are miserable.

What Great Resetters seem incapable of recognizing, however, is that the dystopia they’re warning us all about is simultaneously simpler and more sinister than they imagine. To take just one example, most of the snacks you’ll find at the grocery store are made from processed corn because of the hundreds of billions in subsidies the federal government has given to corn farmers over the past thirty years. This makes them cheap to produce and relatively affordable at the consumer level. There is no elaborate scheme to debilitate the American people; it’s just business as usual. The Neelemans’ rarefied diet of homegrown vegetables and grass-fed beef is a sign of their robust financial resources more than anything else. But to the conspiracy-minded, tradlife is the ultimate form of resistance to elite social control, the inverse of the pod-living, bug-eating world just around the corner.

The future described by the Great Resetters is urban, modern, and atomized. It is one in which people are alienated from the land and the food that comes from it, from their labor, and from each other. It is also, in some ways, the world we already live in. In order to avert catastrophe, they believe, we must return to the old ways.


One of the trad lifestyle’s most potent attractions is nostalgia. When the Neelemans began renovations on their 103-year-old, 2,500-square-foot farmhouse in 2018, they instructed the contractor to expose the original hardwood floors and restore the century-old fireplace that the previous owners had tiled over. They asked for a red wooden barn for their animals rather than the metal ones preferred by modern farmers. “Each time a visitor compliments us on how much they like our ‘old red barn,’” Hannah wrote on Instagram, “I smile. It’s only two months old, but you would never know.” The contractors also demolished the kitchen to bring Hannah’s vision to life, but “we didn’t restore our centenarian home to its original glory only to endow it with a modern kitchen,” she explained. Instead, they replaced the old white stove with a cast-iron AGA model that costs up to $20,000, hid the refrigerator in the pantry, and installed a linen curtain to conceal the dishwasher. Pioneers didn’t have such luxuries, but the Neelemans would—in private.

The prosperity that pioneers had been promised was racially exclusive by design.

If she is reluctant to showcase the technological conveniences that make her rustic life possible, Hannah, a Mormon, goes out of her way to emphasize her family’s ancestral connection to the land. Sourdough, she reminds us in an Instagram caption, is a product of sturdy settlers: “Immigrants brought it from the Old World where it survived the long sea voyage and spread throughout the Americas. Mormon pioneers packed it in their wagons to make flap jacks and fry bread as they rumbled across the Rocky Mountains to Utah.” Hannah often positions herself as both the literal and ideological descendant of the white settlers who conquered the American West. “Like the champion farm wives of yesteryear,” she wrote in a 2020 post, “I strive to be a good homemaker. I want to put food on the table that makes my children happy and keeps my husband giving me the wink. Hot breakfasts, cold homemade ice cream, and homegrown meat and potatoes to fuel our physically demanding lifestyle. Hungry bellies leave jobs undone and I make sure my crew is fueled with God-given nutrition.” Unlike her foremothers, Hannah does this all by choice. For the Neelemans, living off the land is a point of pride, not a requirement for survival.

This wasn’t the case for the “farm wives of yesteryear,” whose lives were often miserable. For most of the nineteenth century, waves of settlers poured across the Mississippi in covered wagons, hoping to set up homesteads—often with significant financial assistance from the federal government. What they found was no paradise. Scholarly accounts of pioneer women’s diaries reveal profound unhappiness and constant weariness. Their lives were difficult, both because of the inhospitable conditions of the frontier—many women recounted the number of graves they passed each day on the long journey West—and because of the isolation they experienced upon arrival. One woman set fire to her party’s wagons; another, who settled in Kansas with her husband and children, felt as if she had lost her sense of self. “I have cooked so much out in the hot sun and smoke, that I hardly know who I am,” she wrote, “and when I look into the little looking glass I ask ‘Can this be me?’” Women were considered particularly vulnerable to the alienation and hardship of the plains, and those whose mental health deteriorated due to their circumstances were said to have gone “shack-wacky.”

The prosperity that pioneers had been promised was racially exclusive by design. The Free Soil movement offered homesteads to white settlers and white settlers alone, at the expense of both indigenous and Black people. Even so, by 1890, birth rates among Americans of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic descent had declined so drastically, in part due to urbanization, that social scientists and politicians spent the next thirty years sounding the alarm about “race suicide” and urging women of so-called old stock to have more children. The American Eugenics Society was so concerned about declining birth rates among white Americans that it funded “better baby” competitions at state fairs across the Midwest to encourage rural families to breed as prolifically as their ancestors. The prize-winning families at the 1925 Kansas Free Fair had their pictures published in the local newspaper; their babies, deemed the most eugenically fit in the state, were awarded medals that read, “Yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Despite this, birth rates continued to decline until the 1950s and only rebounded then because of unprecedented postwar prosperity. The material circumstances that made a good life possible—abundant union jobs with good wages and generous pensions, low-cost higher education, government subsidies for homebuyers—were only fleetingly available, and only to a certain subset of the population. The New Deal policies that provided government-backed loans to working- and middle-class homebuyers, for example, largely excluded Black people.

The past that tradwives want to return to, an anachronistic pastiche of rugged pioneer individualism and midcentury familial plenty, never really existed. The lifestyle they promote is, like the Neelemans’ faux-rustic kitchen, a thoroughly modern construction: its incongruous elements are concealed behind bespoke doors and linen curtains. These aesthetic signifiers, confused as they may be, point to periods of American history in which white families were prioritized above all others. And some tradwives are explicit about their desire for racial supremacy. Ayla Stewart, the woman behind the once-popular trad blogs Wife with a Purpose and Nordic Sunrise, has said that “black, ghetto culture” will lead to the “cultural destruction” of Utah and Mormonism. (Stewart, who calls herself the “most censored Christian mother in America,” claims she has since “retired from political commentary” after “a strong prompting of the Holy Spirit. 🙏.”) Lori Alexander, who promotes traditional gender roles on her blog The Transformed Wife, has written about how an “abundance of female preachers” are waging “war against men,” white men in particular. These women preachers, Alexander writes, do not “teach biblical womanhood” and therefore “disobey God.”

These lies of omission are precisely what makes Ballerina Farm appealing to such a broad swath of followers.

Ballerina Farm is not concerned with such things, at least not publicly. Racist rhetoric might be useful to an aspiring right-wing media personality in an increasingly extreme field, but it’s hardly befitting of a more mainstream influencer whose primary goal is to sell meat, sourdough starter, and meat-and-sourdough-adjacent kitchen accessories to liberal city dwellers and aspiring tradwives alike. When Hannah competed in the Mrs. America pageant in 2021—while pregnant with Mabel Mae—her platform was “Know your farmer, know your food.” But there are plenty of things she doesn’t want you to know. Sometimes Hannah is too busy to cook, so she’ll take the kids to 7-Eleven for hot dogs, she told the Wall Street Journal in 2021. “I’m not sharing that, but we do it,” she said. “We do go get Slurpees occasionally.” Then there are the less relatable aspects of her life: her $20,000 oven, her multimillionaire in-laws, the fact that the flowers sold on the farm’s website are grown in Ecuador, the unseen labor that keeps the Ballerina Farm running when Hannah and David take the kids to the annual Neeleman family reunion, usually held at a “beachy warm equator-nearing destination.”

These lies of omission are precisely what makes Ballerina Farm appealing to such a broad swath of followers, and what sustains these followers’ willful ignorance about how the Neelemans’ lifestyle is funded. The image the couple presents is far more compelling than the truth. Disillusioned girlbosses, downwardly mobile millennial renters, DIY enthusiasts, sourdough fiends, Great Resetters, Three Percenters, white supremacists, run-of-the-mill conservatives, and people who just want to look at nice pictures can all find something that resonates with them on Ballerina Farm. Revealing the vast resources that make this seemingly simple life possible would shatter the illusion that fuels the trad fantasy. Like any successful influencers, the Ballerina Farmers must make the aspirational seem attainable, and must themselves remain palatable to all segments of their audience. It’s possible that they don’t agree with their more extreme fans’ views but know who butters their sourdough.

However manicured the Neelemans’ public image, those who are tuned in can find another message lurking behind the picturesque pastoral imagery. This spring, the family traveled to France to meet with local dairy producers, getting a peek “into the agricultural engine that has propelled France’s ambitions for hundreds of years,” Hannah wrote. The laborers who built such an “impressive array of chateaus and fortresses, castles and cathedrals” were fed by women who, in their own way, helped build these things too. “Civilization begins,” Hannah continued, “when stomachs are full.” The question, as always, is who this civilization is for, and who it will leave behind.