Local girl earns award for 4-H goat milk presentation

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Melissa Minaker started her agricultural career earlier than most.

She began raising animals on her family farm when she was 5, after negotiating a deal with her parents: she would stop sucking her thumb if they would get her a chicken. They got her two.

Now 11, Melissa now has 18 different varieties of laying hens, as well as a herd of young Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, a 30-year-old Morgan breed mare, a rabbit, barn cats, goldfish and a golden retriever named Doug, which her father, Scott Minaker, refers to as the “ranch manager.”

While Scott does most of the grunt work around the family’s Fulton farm, McMini-Akers, he said Melissa took over a majority of the goat-related work for her mother, Patty Minaker, when his daughter was 5. She cleans, feeds and raises the kids to show at agriculture competitions and sell as pets.

“She’s a little goat whisperer,” Scott said of his daughter.

Her vast knowledge of goats paid off late last month at the 4-H Bay/Coast Area Presentation Day in Antioch. She won a Gold Star Award for her presentation on the benefits of goat’s milk at the regional competition, which included schools from 10 Bay Area counties.

“A lot of people don’t know about goat’s milk,” Melissa said. “I thought it would be really cool to teach people about the benefits like I learned.”

Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized, so it doesn’t separate like cow’s milk, her father said. It also has natural glycerin, making it a great moisturizing agent for soaps and lotions, he said.

He said his daughter was nervous at first to give the presentation at the 4-H competition, knowing if she won she would have to present at the state competition.

“But when she won, she’s been the most excited I’ve ever seen,” he said. “She’s really looking forward to (the state competition).”

Patty Minaker said 4-H gives children an opportunity to develop their public speaking skills. Kids can earn a special pin if they give their presentations in front of five other groups, she said.

Melissa just finished her fifth presentation, including in front of a local Rotary Club and at her father’s office. She expects to receive her presentation pin by the end of the year.

“All of this is really exciting,” said her mother. She said the family didn’t intend to be farmers when they started; they just wanted some cute animals to eat their grass.

“It’s a huge learning experience, and it’s fun to share it as well,” Patty Minaker said.

Melissa has been a member of the Lytton Springs 4-H Club since she was 5.

Though she is in sixth grade at Riebli Elementary School in Mark West, she reads and comprehends at the high school level, which he believes helped her win the gold medal, her father said. He boasted about Melissa’s ability to “articulate the benefits (of goat’s milk) and speak publicly without being too nervous,” and that she “enjoys and knows the material and is very confident.”

Melissa, who was 9 at the time, was quoted in a Sonoma 4-H newsletter saying, “4-H teaches you about responsibility — about how to care for your animal, how to pose your animal in a show ring and how to give presentations.”

When she’s not working on 4-H projects, winning awards in showmanship or taking care of her many farm animals, she’s likely enveloped in her two other passions: writing and volleyball. She wants to be an author when she’s older, and she already got a head start writing stories for friends and family.

She started playing at the age of 9 on her 4-H club’s volleyball team, Aftershock, which is now ranked No. 1 in a league of 104 teams, according to Scott Minaker.

His daughter is looking forward to the state 4-H competition, which will be held in June at UC Davis.

“We’re really proud of her,” Scott Minaker said. “It’s great to see she doesn’t back away from a challenge.”

Asked how she feels about going on to the state competition, Melissa said, “I’m kind of nervous, but I’ll see when it gets closer.”

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