Six small farms shared Monday how they are using new techniques and inventions in the growing and harvesting of berries.

The tour at Viva Farms was part of Farm Walks, a series on organic farming hosted by the Washington State University Food Systems Program and the Seattle nonprofit Tilth Alliance.

The six farms were Arado Farms, Silva Family Farms, Cabrera Farms, Regino’s Farm, Farias Farm and Pure Nelida Farm. All of them lease land at Viva Farms west of Burlington through the incubator program. The tour was given in both English and Spanish.

Mauricio Soto and Senaida Vela, owners of Arado Farms, started at Viva Farms in 2013 and are up to 3 acres of strawberries and raspberries.

Soto showed off canopies built over strawberry beds to help keep the plants warm and dry and reduce disease. The canopies help extend the short growing season, Soto said in Spanish through an interpreter.

On his raspberry fields, he uses a technique shared by California inventor Rosendo Garcia Ortiz. Wire is strung between plants to keep space between them and allow them to breathe. This gives bees better access and improves plant growth, Garcia Ortiz said. As the plants grow, layers of wires are added on top.

Soto said his goal is to make his kids fall in love with farming, just as he did. To do that, he finds innovations to reduce labor, he said.

“We are trying to do less work to produce the same,” Soto said. “To reach that goal, we have to invest money.”

Pablo Silva of Silva Family Farms has 2 acres of strawberries at Viva Farms, and recently bought 3 acres on Whidbey Island for growing blueberries.

He said one of his biggest concerns is food safety, such as contamination from animals that pass through the fields.

When berries are harvested into boxes, the boxes are placed onto small carts to avoid contact with the soil, he said. This technology was also developed by Garcia Ortiz.

“We use these small carts, until someone else invents a better idea,” Silva said.

Fifty-five attended the tour.

Laura Ridenour, commerce specialist for the state Department of Agriculture, said the Farm Walks program helps farmers learn directly from one another.

“Particularity the small, non-commodity growers who don’t always have the support of technical information,” she said.

At Viva Farms’ second location off Highway 20, growers shared more techniques, including drip irrigation, cover crops, plastic mulching and direct field packing to reduce contamination.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison:, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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