Connecting to Our Food and the Earth — From Ballerina Farm

by Hannah Neeleman
Connecting to Our Food and the Earth — From Ballerina Farm

Natural eating: we’ve all heard of it, but it’s not something we all do. Grocery stores make it easy to buy whatever food we want, whenever we want it, and we don’t really see where any of it comes from. Buying from local farms is hardly attractive when we can get things cheaper and year-round from Wal-Mart or Whole Foods.

Our world’s globalized food market has made connecting to our food and the earth a thing of the past.

Living in cities can make it even harder if you don’t even have the option to buy from local farms and ranches.

There are so many benefits to being connected to our food and the earth.

Natural eating is the best way to pump our bodies full of natural vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein.

You can still see devoted subsistence farming in many Brazilian, Japanese, and other communities around the world. Raising their own livestock and growing their own gardens brings oven-fresh loaves of bread and tender cuts of meat to the table every evening. Fresh vegetables grow in abundance here!

Of course, we can indulge in unhealthy sweets now and again. Moderation is key. But having the most natural foods in our diets is the best way to look and feel our best. 

Farmers’ and ranchers’ hard work has made natural eating both possible and important.

But it’s no secret that becoming harder and harder to eat naturally in this day and age. North Americans and Europeans have largely ditched the idea of growing and raising their own foods in favor of more relaxing lifestyles and glass skyscrapers. Now, we leave the farming and ranching to mass producers who have to modify their crops and animals to produce such high yields. It doesn’t seem like anything is natural anymore. But local farmers and ranchers all across the nation are trying to change that.

One such ranch, called Ballerina Farm, is dedicated to bringing natural, high-grade meat to our dinner tables and encouraging us to connect to our food and the earth.

Ballerina Farm is a ranch nestled in the towering green mountains of Kamas, Utah. Soft grasses and lush trees rustle in the gentle breeze. A pinewood barn sits amongst the grass, built with the very woods of the mountain pines it’s surrounded by. Each building’s design reflects the rustic nature of the landscape, the rugged mountains, and lush plants on the banks of the spring. With over 300 acres, it resembles the look of the archetypical wild west, just without the horses and gun-twirling sheriffs.

Open lands and rolling mountains seem to preserve a picture of what the earth once looked like before cities seeped into the land. 

The earth has a wild spirit. So must its inhabitants.

Hannah Neeleman Ballerina Farm Inside of the barn, Hannah Neeleman sits on a rusted, silver bucket, donning a red button-up shirt and a glittering Mrs. Utah crown as she milks one of the ranch’s milk cows. Just that evening, she had been crowned the 2021 Mrs. Utah, and instead of celebrating with drinks and gossip as they do in the movies, she went home with her crown ready to get back to work.

Winning a pageant is an amazing feat, but nothing truly beats the feeling of hard work and connecting with her animals.

For Hannah, pageantry has never been about the glitz, glam, and sparkling crown. She cares more about raising awareness for the natural lifestyle she learned to love ever since childhood.

Hannah grew up much differently than she lives now. As one of 9 children, she didn’t know a life with loads of money. Her father’s florist business was modest, but they weren’t wealthy. For this reason, they tended to a large garden to supplement some of their food needs. Hannah learned during this childhood the importance of natural foods, and she became connected to the process of how food gets to our table.

The labor that goes behind it, the sweat and tears, but also the joy of seeing the fruits of your labor.

After graduating high school, Hannah was accepted to Juilliard in NYC as a ballerina. A job on the side could cover living expenses, but tuition expenses surpassed what a part-time job could pay for. To make ends meet, she began competing in pageants to raise money for her tuition costs. Hannah was crowned former Miss New York City and graduated from Juilliard. Hannah could never fully lose her childhood connection to her food and the earth.

But living in the city changed things. Now, she could only shop at grocery stores and walk through steel and concrete buildings. She struggled to fully keep her connection to farming and ranching living as a city girl.

Connecting to food and the earth was much harder when she was no longer indulging in the culture of it.

It was during her time in NYC that she met her husband Daniel, who now has a BA in history and a Master’s in business. When they got married, Hannah and Daniel suddenly had almost no time to spend together while balancing work, studies, and a family dynamic. The bustling city lifestyle they had pushed so hard for suddenly became a point of stress in their life. They were married, yet saw each other less than they saw their fellow students.

Hannah remembers sitting down one night, looking at Daniel, and saying,

“I married you because I want to be with you.”

And they both knew that something about their lifestyle had to change.

Soon after, they moved to São Paulo, Brazil for Daniel’s then job. While most of Daniel’s coworkers there sought out the beach or a hike during their free time, Hannah and Daniel found themselves traveling miles upon miles to rural farmlands, some that were 40 miles even from the nearest run-down gas station.

Here, beautiful local farms sprawled across the landscape with humble families harvesting the crops and raising their livestock for their dinners each week.

Kids worked together with their parents to raise the animals, and the family bond between them all was strong. They spent every day together for hours, a stark contrast to Hannah’s own situation back in NYC.

One particular cattle ranch in central Brazil stuck out to them. Daniel had a connection to the ranch owner, which was a surprising coincidence; he was an uncle of one of Daniel’s coworkers! He invited Daniel and Hannah to stay for a week and indulge in the natural, country lifestyle. It was here that they really relearned what connecting with our food and the earth really meant.

They also learned what true, ethical, natural ranching looked like.

The pigs weren’t locked away in stalls as you see in large-scale commercial production. Instead, they were out in the pasture chomping away on the grass with the free-range cows. The animals enjoyed treats every so often of guava, mango, and star fruits from the trees that speckled the ranch. There were no unethical mass slaughterings or sick animals cooped up in metal pens. Often times, commercial practices tear baby animals away from their mothers. At this local Brazilian ranch, all animals got to stay with their families. Calves drank their mother’s milk and piglets grew up alongside their littermates. It was natural and humane.

Even the family’s soaps and cheeses were homemade!

Hannah and Daniel knew that this was the path they wanted to take in life.

They wanted their kids to experience that family bonding and connection to nature, and they wanted to bring that natural food to people and inspire them to adopt a more natural lifestyle.

So they moved back to the United States and got to work.

They did their research, bought ground and livestock, and thus began the journey of Ballerina Farm, lovingly named after Hannah’s ballerina title.

Today, Ballerina Farm is 328 acres of pure Uinta Mountain beauty with a historically restored home and turn-key ranch house with sprawling infrastructure. They spend all hours of the day together, growing and learning, tending the animals, and becoming stronger as a family. Their children learn the importance of hard work that comes with every meal someone eats, and they learn to appreciate how good healthy food looks and tastes. 

Their ranching practices are safe and humane. The animals are like a second family to the Neelemans, just as important and loved as a pet dog or cat. Ballerina Farm is like a snapshot from the past, but with a little extra help from technology. They drink milk straight from the cows and cook dinners with only the freshest local ingredients.

Hannah, Daniel, and their 6 adorable children live with all-natural foods, and they want to inspire others to connect with their food and the earth.

Connecting to Our Food and the EarthOf course, the ranching life doesn’t come without responsibilities. Living breathing animals require constant care. Waking up at the crack of dawn to feed them, recognizing and catching disease and injury early on, making sure their diets are healthy. Even the kids put in their fair work to keep the animals healthy and the chores are done. You have to milk the cows, feed and herd the animals and collect the eggs.

Rain, snow, sleet, and hail? You still have to schlep yourself outside with some milking boots on and tend to the animals. Just because you don’t like the weather doesn’t mean the animals don’t have to eat. It requires willpower and a true love for the animals and ranching as a whole.

Connecting to food and the earth takes some hard work.

“It’s an all day job. No days off.” –Hannah Neeleman

But it’s extremely rewarding in the end. You see the fruits of your labor on your own dinner table and on others’ plates. Ballerina Farm has made it their mission to foster this love for natural foods in other people with their naturally raised meat that you can order on their website!

The ranch boasts extremely high-grade, naturally raised meat cuts. On wide-open mountain fields, they raise Angus cattle for premium beef. Ballerina Farm’s true specialty, however, is Berkshire pigs.

Also known as Kurobuta in Japan, Berkshires are a rare heritage breed of pigs bred specifically for specialty pork.

Unlike most pigs you see at a commercial farm, Berkshires aren’t that perfect solid pink color. Most of them have dark, almost black coloring, and some have patches of black and pink. Most ranchers don’t use Berkshire pigs in mass production due to their smaller litter sizes and longer growing times, making them quite the specialty. They are harder to raise, but Ballerina Farm’s dedication to quality meat makes raising Berkshires well worth it.

What makes Berkshire pigs so great?

Higher pH levels in their meat create unprecedented marbling content, tenderness, juiciness, and rich, savory, flavor. Little can match up to this breed, shown time and time again by the many chefs and pork savants who seek them out. Berkshires are actually famous in Japan, and they’re considered the “Kobe beef of pork.”

In case you didn’t know, Kobe beef produces Wagyu steaks. (Aka the amazing marbled juicy –and expensive– steaks you see on food TikTok.)

Yeah. Berkshire pork is that good.

Connecting to Our Food and the EarthBerkshire pigs thrive in the cooler weather of the Utah mountains alongside their Angus cattle pasture mates. They spend their days rolling in open spaces, breathing in the fresh open air, and sipping on crisp mountain spring water –probably living a better life than the rest of us. Those who indulge in a steak or juicy Bratwurst sausage from Ballerina Farm can do so knowing the animals lived a healthy, wild lifestyle full of enrichment and bonding. No unethical commercial practices here! Videos on Instagram of the family bonding with their animals really put the cherry on top.

Hannah also showcases amazing natural recipes on the Ballerina Farm Instagram that use natural produce and her own livestock’s meat.

Connecting to Our Food and the EarthCrispy, artisan sourdough bread —a leaf pattern toasted on top— with berry smoothies and homemade steak dinners make for an amazing variety of great natural recipes. Hannah offers tips on what kinds of edible plants might grow naturally in your area! She harvests watercress greens right from the spring on the ranch and shows us how to make amazing organic salads with them here on their Instagram page. Some recipes she shares are simple salads or quick breakfast meals, and others are bigger, stockier meals like Canadian bacon pineapple pizza that uses Ballerina Farm bacon!

You might not know where to start making your diet more natural. It can also be pretty expensive to change it all cold turkey. But you don’t have to start all at once! You can even do it in partial steps!

One of Hannah’s pillars of belief is that you can start small and stay small. Just do what you can, and it will pay off.

Connecting to Our Food and the Earth“Make a sourdough bread loaf rather than buying one from the store. Start with smaller, staple food items like that and build up from there. If you have a small yard and some extra time, get a few chickens in a coop. Now you can collect fresher, organic eggs for your breakfast omelets. Buy local meat cuts. Sprout your own microgreens and herbs right from your countertop.”

You can find tons of tips on growing your own produce, even some right here on Hollywood Beauty Magazine!

Do what you can from your own home to connect to your food and the earth. Soon, you’ll find yourself eating more sustainably and appreciating where your food comes from.

If finances are a worry, you can also start small here. Good, natural food is the best possible fuel we can give our bodies. Connecting to our food and the earth is so important, and we will feel better and perform better the more natural our food is. But there’s no doubt it’s more expensive than grocery food. Instead of paying for a set of acrylic nails, reallocate that money into funds for local produce and meat. Instead of buying an expensive trendy shirt, use those funds to invest in a bread-making machine. Then you can make your own crisp, fluffy artisan bread in less time!

Make good food worth losing your nails or a new shirt.

Connecting with our food and the earth happens at your own pace, and at your own limits.

Connecting to our food and the earth is difficult when we don’t see the labor that goes into it, nor when it comes out of a grocery store. Hannah is hoping to change that bit by bit as Mrs. Utah and with her thriving business that ships local meat products all around the US. She hopes that with a more natural diet, we can gain a greater understanding of what goes into producing the food we eat. With this, we can begin connecting to our food and the earth. Our bodies will become stronger and we will feel better eating foods from local sources. Plus, it’s much more ethical than commercial production.

Ballerina Farm is a great way to enjoy meat products without feeding into the animal cruelty and growth hormones of the commercial industry.

Connecting to Our Food and the EarthTheir recurring meat box subscription allows you to pick from different boxes that all have different cuts of meat. Some have bratwursts, roasts, and other sausages that are great for barbecue cookouts or outdoor dinner get-togethers. Other boxes have a good mix of sausage, ground beef, pork cuts, and lamb. This box is great for those who don’t have any specific uses for their meat and like to use a variety of different meats and cuts.

For those who enjoy a fine cooking experience, try the premium box! This one is stocked with premium steak cuts, pork and lamb cuts, and amazing ribs. No one is going home unsatisfied. 

Ballerina Farm makes animal products available to all types of people with different needs and likes.

Connecting to Our Food and the EarthYou can subscribe to a standard or large box, and have it recur every 30, 60, or 90 days, with the ability to skip months or cancel at any time. Ballerina farm also offers weekly special boxes and holiday-themed boxes, like the Father’s Day box. You can check out the ranch’s Instagram and scroll through the feed for amazing ideas on how to use your meats. You can even shop for freshly made lard –which is like shortening but much more natural and way less processed. Substitute natural lard in for shortening in any recipe for more flavor and less processed fillers. There are tips on the internet and in cookbooks on how to cook with lard.

Lard is especially helpful for baking. Using lard instead of processed shortening helps bring out more flavor without adding more butter and ruining the texture of your baked good.

Meat and animal products have never tasted so natural. Connecting to our food and the earth has never been so easy.

Try shopping from local farms in your area, or from local ranches like Ballerina Farm that ship to you! Your body (and the planet) will thank you for connecting to your food and the earth.

Follow Hannah and her adorable family as they continue to make natural food thrive all around the country!

Ballerina Farm Website/Shop
Ballerina Farm Instagram
Mrs. Utah Instagram

About the author: Hannah Neeleman

Daniel and I grew up city kids. We became fascinated with farm life while lived 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.

One day, while visiting a cattle ranch in in central Brazil, we ran into something that shocked us. As the experienced rancher talked about his impressive cattle operation, Daniel couldn’t stop looking at the man’s pigs. They weren’t locked up in stalls. Rather, they were out to pasture munching on grass side by side with the cows. They also enjoyed perusing fallen fruit from a smattering of mango, guava, cashew, and star fruit trees that dotted the farm.

From that point on all we could think about was raising pigs and cattle on pasture. So after 4 years in Brazil, we came back to the states, bought land and Ballerina Farm was born.

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Comments

@peepso_user_5332(Carlotta Proietti)
Beautiful article! Makes want to live a more natural lifestyle!
5 months ago
@peepso_user_5201(Megan Boswell)
Great example! We should all live this way.
5 months ago
@peepso_user_5410(Catherine Cardenas)
Loved this article! I would love to love more like you.
5 months ago
@peepso_user_5307(Miguel Ramos)
Hi Hannah, thank you for inspiring me to live a natural and sustainable lifestyle!
5 months ago
@peepso_user_5135(Savannah Rubalcava)
I loved reading this. It's truly inspiring and educational ☺
5 months ago

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