From the Ozarks to Ballerina Farm

If you have not heard of Ballerina Farm, you’re in good company —or at least my company until a few days ago. Not being a social media user, many of today’s ‘influencers’ pass unnoticed by me. However, I have good friends who occasionally send items my way that they think would interest me.

Ballerina Farm is a Utah-based, cattle-raising, homesteading, homeschooling family of ten that has millions of followers on Tik Tok, Instagram and other media platforms. The mother, strikingly lovely, ex-ballerina Hannah, videos and posts about her healthy, home-centered, family. As the description of their YouTube channel says, “This channel is all about the adventures, hard work, and farm lifestyle chosen by two city kids who wanted to live the dream of modern farming, while preserving the quality of life found in traditional home cooking and living off the land.”

She seems to be living out the aspirations of thousands (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say ‘of women’) who comment on her posts. She represents a slower, calmer, healthier way of life than most of us lead.

It wouldn’t be 2024 if that was the whole story. Instead, Hannah is under attack as well. She never revealed on her Instagram posts that her husband comes from big money, the founding family of Jet Blue Airlines. This is quite possibly the reason that they could purchase a sprawling ranch that is out of the reach of most of her followers. She is competing in the Mrs. World competition shortly after the birth of her eighth child rather than nestling in a rocking chair surrounded by her adoring family. It seems that everyone is entitled to an opinion about her and her family, etc., etc., etc. Indeed, if you choose to open your life to the public, public scrutiny won’t always be muted, logical, just, or positive.

I may not follow Ballerina Farm, but I do follow a different farming woman and family. Since Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957, I read her long-ago written articles rather than watch her videos or consume her tweets. While familiar to many as the author of the Little House on the Prairie series, Mrs. Wilder also regularly published articles in the years before, during, and after the First World War, presenting herself as a farming wife and commenting on that life. She too, wrote about the “adventures, hard work, and farm lifestyle” as lived by her husband Almanzo, daughter Rose and herself. Many of these articles have been collated into a book, Little House in the Ozarks. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s personal life is less the focus than are her thoughts on farming, the economy, and cultural issues. Even if movies were around in her day, it is hard to picture her filming herself in labor and immediately after delivery.

Yet, the stated goals are the same. Both women share a desire to garner appreciation for the myriad tasks that go into building a home and family, and recognition for the importance of farmers and farming. Both are committed to a lifestyle that, as attractive as it sounds in theory, would leave most of us exhausted and cranky. The methods they use to reach their audiences are wildly different and require very different levels of personal exposure.

Personally, I would love to know what Laura Ingalls Wilder would say to Hannah if they could meet and sit down together to a plate of nourishing soup cooked from homegrown vegetables and herbs. Are these two kindred spirits or would we see a matriarch aghast at the path her sister-in-spirit heir is following?

This Musing is dedicated in memory of Maya Haim, 22, who was murdered on October 7, 2023.

And with prayers for the safe return of all the hostages, and among them, Sriaoun Watchara, 32, and Suwannakham Sathian, 34, two guest workers from Thailand who were abducted on October 7, 2023.

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