Shelbyville native Cari Rincker is an author, lawyer, farmer, speaker, teacher, athlete, blogger, and soon-to-be podcaster.

But the woman of many trades puts it mildly.

"I wear a lot of different hats," she said recently.

The busy, successful career is driven by lessons learned from growing up on a farm, Rincker said, where she not only had fun – catching tadpoles in a creek and riding in the back of her dad's pickup – but worked hard.

"People ask me a lot what I think my key to success is and my response is always the same," said Rincker, 38. "That it's hard work, and it's the kind of hard work I learned growing up on my farm. Baling hay. Showing cattle through 4-H and FFA. I think that that work ethic has stuck with me through everything I do.”

After living in New York City for a decade, Rincker came home to Illinois and now tends a farm outside of Champaign, where one of her law offices is. She has cattle, goats, chicken, and rabbits that she takes care of before and after her office work.

"I really look forward to that time at five or six in the morning or whenever I wake up where I spend a half an hour or 45 minutes to go feed the animals, water the garden, and spend some time with my dog," Rincker said. "Because of what I do for a living -- I'm behind a desk in front of a computer screen -- I really look forward to doing physical labor. It's a nice change in the day."

Rincker has a focus on food, agriculture, and family law, with the latter concentration being an unexpected, but now treasured, practice. She said helping families through conflict and through transitions has been very meaningful to her.

"I completely fell into family law because I was trying to pay rent," she said. "There's a saying with lawyers that sometimes you don't find your practice, your practice finds you. And I feel very much that way about the family law side of my practice.”

One of Rincker's books, Field Manual: Legal Guide for New York Farmers & Food Entrepreneurs, combines her background on the farm and in the courthouse. She urges farmers to treat their farm as a business and get their contracts in writing.

"I feel that farmers are reluctant to put contracts in writing," she said. "Mostly because they're dealing with people they trust and know. And culturally, agricultural people are a trusting culture. It's a handshake culture. But people end up calling me when those types of agreements go sour for whatever reason."

An Illinois version of the book is in the works and will hopefully be available by 2019, Rincker said.

Rincker is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School teaching an online agriculture and environmental law course. In addition to the class, she said she likes meeting with farmers and breaking down how laws affect their lives. In the future, she'd like her Champaign farm to be a place where students can visit and learn about agricultural production.

"I'm an educator by blood,” she said.

Stan Polanski can be reached at stan.polanski@shelbyvilledailyunion.com or 217-774-2161 ext. 1.

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