POTOMAC, Md. — You can call him “Farmer Mike.”
It’s a nickname that stuck after Michael Protas, a self-described suburbanite with an interest in agriculture, started volunteering on a farm while at Penn State University.
Now Protas, the owner of Montgomery County’s One Acre Farm, is reaching out to help farmers in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Protas is heading down to Texas in a borrowed trailer packed with food, diapers and other goods collected by congregants at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac.
Protas explained that the operation was the product of several helping hands.
His rabbi, Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, mobilized congregants in a “flash-packing” operation: 43 volunteers assembled the 10,000 prepackaged meals — and a mountain of diaper boxes — in one hour.
A trailer is on loan from Kevin Bowie at Good Choice Farm in Clarksburg. Trick Trucks in Kensington also helped with preparing the transport.
On the way back, Protas said, he expects to bring back livestock that Texas farmers need out of the way as they salvage crops and repair properties.
The trailer can accommodate up to 12 medium-sized “feeder cattle.”
This isn’t the first time Protas has helped out in the wake of a natural disaster.
After Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast, Protas said, he heard from friends in New York that there was a shortage of fresh produce. He contacted farmers he knew, got donated produce, and took his refrigerated truck to New York to distribute the badly needed fresh food.
Soon after that first trip, Lustig asked if Protas could make a second run, which he did.
After Hurricane Harvey hit, Protas wanted to reach out to another needy community, he said, so he contacted Lustig to work together to help Texans.
Wednesday morning, Protas and his colleague at One Acre Farm, Rob Brown, showed up outside the Washington Hebrew Congregation with a trailer to load the items. They later stopped at Century Distributors to pick up gas cans, cleaning supplies and other items on a wish list that Lustig helped compile after contacting the Texas religious community.
It will take about 22 hours to drive it all to Texas, but Protas said he’s just happy to be helping out.
© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.