Retooling for innovative cover crop seeding
Farmhands in California recreate a tool to meet their needs

By Dan Sullivan

Click here for more on the large scale berry operation Hilo Yepez manages


Innovative farming techniques often call for innovative tools. At Dutra Farms, just like many farms across the country, that means that the field crew pulls double duty as equipment engineers.

A wonderful example of this ingenuity is the seed driller retrofitted by farm manager Virgilio “Hilo” Yepez and his team so that the mounded cover crop rows between the raspberry canes may be easily and uniformly seeded. In order to accomplish this task, the outside seed cups had to be turned at an angle and the middle ones raised. Nothing a little welding and retrofitting—and a whole lot of imagination—couldn’t handle.

The cover crops are planted in December—side by side with the new raspberry canes—
and then cut down before they start competing for light with the berries, which will be ready to pick in July. Bringing the cover crops down without harming the maturing berry bushes was another specialized task to which the Dutra Farms machine shop turned its collective attention.

“They had to create their own unique piece of equipment in order to turn the cover crops under,” says Eco-Farm conference organizer and farm tour guide Amigo Cantisano.

Hilo's amazing rasperry seed driller: Angled blades allow for perfect seeding of angled rows.