Nostalgia, that sentimental longing and wistful affection for a time in the past.
The German translation of nostalgia, Heimweh, is actually a translation of the Greek words nostos (return home) and algos (pain). Swiss doctor Johannes Hofer first put these terms together in 1688 to describe the feeling people from mountainous areas have when taken out of their native area.
Given all the shabby-chic furniture and hipster products that floor the small designer shops in Zurich (and most western cities), one would believe that we live in times of nostalgia. Our busy, modern lives with 24 hour access to information, work, each other and food have us feeling exhausted and wishing for a quieter time.
Like in our childhood, when things seemed to be more certain and less busy.
Fresh Milk from the City's Edge
For many millennials, the idea of having milk delivered to our homes is a faded memory from old television programs our parents watched as they reminisced about those good old days. Those growing up in the Swiss countryside may have a milk man delivering milk, or they bought their milk from the farm. During my childhood in Speicher, Appenzell, we actually had our own milk. And when we emigrated to Canada, I still got fresh milk on my friend's farm.
While on a bike ride one day on Zürich's Hönggerberg near the ETH campus, the economist Flurin Conradin discovered a milk dispensing machine at an organic farm on the edge of the city. The mere thought of fresh milk caused a feeling of nostalgia in him, and he started collecting his milk there.
Bringing his own milk canteen, Flurin would bike an hour back and forth to the farm for fresh milk. He was driven by memories of collecting rich, creamy milk from the local Aargau dairy where he grew up.
Flurin soon realized that despite the bike ride being good for his health, it was not very practical and required special planning. The economic solution would be to place milk dispensing machines where many people pass by on a daily basis - like how Starbucks places their coffee shops at heavily trafficked intersections.
Nostalgia turns into Stadtmilch
With the warm memory of those delicious Z'Nüni breaks (9 AM snacks) that came with a wholesome glass of milk, Flurin set about to rectify the situation. Bringing back the milk man was not going to happen. But having a milk dispensing machine at a convenient location where people could bring their own containers would mean less waste, better milk and more money for the farmer: Stadtmilch was born.
Flurin was able to get Käserei Tritt in Zürich's Viadukt market to agree to having the milk vending machine in their stall - cleaning included. The Stadtmilch entrepreneur then set about finding a dairy farmer who was interested in selling his milk.
He found a farm in Längimoos in Rüschlikon, right on Lake Zurich. The cows there feed on fresh grass, are allowed to keep their horns, and the farmer knows each of the cows by name - like my dad used to with our cows when we had the farm...
A Primer on Stadtmilch Milk
The two Meier brothers Jörg and Urs together with their wives Annemarie and Margrit also pasteurize the milk on their farm in Rüschlikon. This means that they earn about 40 Rappen per liter additionally.
And considering that a normal farmer only gets about 70 Rappen per liter, this extra step greatly increases their revenues. This allows them to give their cows better grazing conditions, which in turn produces a higher quality of milk.
The Stadtmilch milk is not homogenized, which means that it is creamier and more flavorsome. This is unlike the cloudy water labelled as milk that lines grocery store isles in tetra packs.
Your Chance to Help
Having lined up a supplier and a convenient place to set up the milk vending machine, Flurin is just about to make his project a reality. The Stadtmilch project just needs CHF 10'000 to come to live - and Flurin is almost there.
For people donating to the project, which is not meant to be a startup, there are cool giveaways like a vintage milk bottle with logo! So if you are looking for a little nostalgia and live in Zürich, this is a project that you can support to get better, fairer milk.
We have supported Stadtmilch in their crowdfunding efforts where they attained 104% of their goal.