Covid-catchup with Melissa van den Heuvel

28 Apr 2020

HortNZ is speaking with young people in the industry to see what they have been up to during the COVID-19 lockdown.

This week we interview Melissa van den Heuvel who was the winner of the 2020 Bay of Plenty Young Grower Competition and is an Industry Systems Associate at NZ Avocado.

Winner Melissa van den Heuvel with Kiritapu Allan and MC Guy WilliamsMelissa being awarded the BOP Young Grower trophy by MP Kiritapu Allen, and MC Guy Williams in February 2020.


Who’s in your bubble?
Myself and my partner are in our little bubble.

What have you been doing in the lockdown?
Working for an essential business within the horticulture sector, I am lucky that I am in a position where I am able to continue working remotely, which has been keeping me busy. The house is also the cleanest it has been, and there is a lot of baking filling the cupboards which my partner is pleased about.

What do you think are the industry’s major challenges with COVID-19?
Within the Avocado industry, I think one of the biggest challenges we are facing now is preparing for the upcoming season. Although our current season is coming to an end, there are challenges that come with planning ahead when we don’t know what the situation around the world is going look like. 

What do you think the opportunities might be, once we’re further through COVID-19?
I believe technology has been a massive benefit during this challenging time. Technology has allowed for the continuation of projects and accessibility to others to ensure we can keep the horticulture sector moving. It has taught us a new way of working which really opens a lot of opportunities for the future and will allow us to think differently and become more agile across both work and home life moving forward. I know I also have a few projects to crack into when lock down is lifted.  

How have the past two months been for you, since the Bay of Plenty competition in February?
Since winning Bay of Plenty Young Fruit grower in February 2020, I have been really busy with work within the industry. Completing all of the end of season processes, whilst navigating the lock down with the unprecedented event of COVID-19, alongside the rest of the world, has also meant adjusting to a new way of everyday life.

Any ideas about what the rest of 2020 will bring for you?  Any plans around work or study, or it is too early to tell, given current uncertainties?
So far 2020 has been a fantastic but very full-on year, so I am very much playing it by ear and just seeing what the rest of this year will bring. 

Melissa and Archie (cat)

Melissa (and Archie the cat) have been able to keep working from home. She says that working from home has had its challenges though, with technology occasionally deciding not to work in the middle of Zoom meetings, but is lucky to be able to keep some sort of routine.