Created by Marianne Wendt, ‘New Heights’ is an immersive familial drama series with enough twists, turns, and revelations to entice the audience. The story unfolds at a cerebral pace while lending a lens inward to capture the mental turmoil of the characters. After the suicide of Kurt Wyss, his family comes together to cope with the loss. The Wyss family farm remains under crushing debt, but it ties the family down. Kurt’s children struggle to decide how to move on with their lives, while Michi takes a risk by investing in the failing farm.
The narrative is pretty straightforward, with compelling performances by a first-rate cast ensemble and excellent camera work and soundtrack. However, you may wonder whether Berno, Michi’s employer, is a real-life evil corporate firm in Switzerland. Also, is Neumatt based on an actual farm? Let us probe further. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Berno A Real Company?
In the show, Michi works for the business consultancy firm Berno, which deals exclusively with milk and dairy products. Michi strives for success and uses his background as a farmer to know pertinent data from large-scale farmers like Peterhans. Berno influences the market using the data, and suddenly, the farmers find themselves with their backs against the wall. Therefore, the farmers stage a protest in front of Berno’s office. Michi teams up with the farmers, and together, they storm into the office. Michi then delivers a heartfelt speech to mediate the situation.
If you’re wondering whether Berno is an actual company based in Switzerland, let us inform you that Berno is entirely fictional, as the creators sought to steer clear of political and legal concerns. However, there’s a chance that the company may have been inspired by the Swiss Branch Organization Milk (BOM), which was reportedly at loggerheads with Swiss farmers over dairy milk prices in September 2018.
As per the Swiss Farmers Association, when the aforementioned company decided to leave the A-target price for dairy milk at CHF 0.68 per kg, the farmers demanded a fair price cap and a level playing field. Therefore, there seems to be more truth to the fictional company Berno than what meets the eye.
Is Neumatt A Real Farm?
Swiss dairy farm Neumatt lies at the center of the unfolding narrative of the show. Kurt, the patriarch of the Wyss family, owned and looked after the farm. However, Kurt seemingly broke under pressure because of his accumulated debts in an economic environment where small and mid-level farmers have to make daily compromises. While giving his eldest son, Michi, a call in the middle of the night, Kurt lets Michi know that he is proud that his son is good with numbers. That is as far as he can come, although, in retrospect, Kurt’s phone call comes off as a desperate final attempt at bringing the family together.
Did Kurt also know about Katherina’s illicit affair? Well, the series does not give a fitting reply, but it may have been the case. After Kurt’s death, his offspring Michi, Lorenz (“Lolo”), and Sarah are natural heirs of the property. Kurt asks Michi to help Lorenz become an established farmer in a letter that Katherina henceforth conceals to herself. In the meantime, Sarah and the family members have received an offer of some gravity from the town mayor, Ursula.
According to Ursula, the family should sell the farm for 3 Million CHF to a multinational company that would build a distribution center on the farm’s premises. This way, they can repay all the debt (a cumulated sum of 700000 CHF) and have some additional money to secure their futures. Sarah’s gym business has taken a hit. Thus, she considers selling the farm, while Michi considers investing in it despite all odds. Neumatt is not an actual farm, but Kurt and Neumatt’s entwined story is representative, as it speaks for hundreds of small and mid-level farmers who have been crushed under bludgeoning debt.
Gentrification is a glaring community issue that remains at the center of the debate across regions and nations. The tussle between the invisible multinational company trying to accumulate assets, and the visible woes of the family vying for the ancestral land, conditions much of the tension in the narrative. You may have heard the proverb that a farmer’s life is tied to his land. Therefore, by chronicling the story of the Wyss family, and the farm Neumatt, the series reminds the viewers of more such farms which have gone extinct amidst immense economic pressure.
Read More: Is New Heights Based on A True Story?