From lawyer to teacher and livestock coach, Cari Rincker embodies modern leadership in the agriculture industry.
Remembered by many in the Simmental community as an AJSA youngster who served on the junior board, Cari Rincker, native of Shelbyville, Illinois, is today a nationally-recognized lawyer with a concentration in food, farm, and family law.
“As long as I can recall, I was involved with Simmental cattle and exposed to the show industry. When I was younger, it was a given that I would be involved in 4-H and the AJSA. I met some of my life-long friends through the National and Regional Classics. Some of my fondest memories were waking up really early to be at the wash rack at four o'clock in the morning on show day.”
Before she was participating in the AJSA, Rincker remembers attending livestock shows with her father, Curt Rincker, who was an agriculture professor and livestock coach at Lake Land College (LLC). Rincker credits her parents and her exposure to public speaking as a stepping stone to her career today. “I gave my first set of oral reasons at the Simmental classics in Springfield. I remember practicing with my father, and I was in tears — I was so terrified. And then the next day, I did it on my own for the very first time. It was just such an accomplishment for me as a young person. A lot of the skills that I learned through AJSA transmitted to my professional life as an attorney, who has to be a public speaker both inside and outside of the courtroom on a regular basis.”
Initially, Rincker attended LLC for an associate’s degree in agriculture. She was on the livestock judging team where she won oral reasons at the National Western and was the first place individual overall at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. After graduating, she earned her bachelor’s in animal science at Texas A&M. While on the livestock team at A&M, she received the All-American Livestock Judge award.
It was her internship in Washington, DC, where she was exposed to agriculture law and policy. Rincker explains, “I lived in the Georgetown Law Dorms and experienced Capitol Hill for the very first time. I could have hated that experience, but I ended up loving it. One of my biggest pieces of advice that I have for young people is to just not be afraid to try other things on for size. That’s how you learn which career paths fit you. Maybe you’re attracted to something or maybe you’re repelled by it, but at least you've had that experience.”
After completing her master’s degree from the University of Illinois in ruminant nutrition, she went on to law school at Pace University. Before starting Rincker Law, PLLC, Cari was an associate at a law firm in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where her practice areas ranged from agriculture, environmental and natural resource issues to federal lands, wind energy development, crop insurance, property law, commercial law, and probate with clients located all over the West.
For the last three and a half years, Rincker has lived in Champaign, Illinois, closer to the family’s Simmental and SimAngus™ cattle operation. In addition to helping with the family operation as needed, she also raises chickens, goats, feeds out cattle, and sells the meat locally.
Over the years, her practice has shifted to about 25% food and agriculture and 75% family law. “The two areas have been an interesting hybrid because I’m more involved in farm divorces, farm and ranch prenuptial agreements. All of these things are very interrelated into farm and ranch succession planning. They complement the different practice areas that I specialize in. My food and my agriculture practice tends to be more transactional like business, estate, and succession planning, drafting highly specialized contracts, such as embryo transfer agreements. I also will use intellectual property such as trademarks. Rarely, but I will also get into commercial litigation. For example, I’ve had some farm business divorces and things along those lines.
“I went to law school because I wanted to help people. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what that was going to look like. And I'm not going to lie, there are hard days. Clients don’t call me when life is good. I get the calls when the farm lease dispute has gone wrong. But at the end of the day, what really truly brings me joy is trying to help them navigate through this mess called life.
“My love and my passion is to be a mediator, a helper in the middle of complications. With the court system shut down because of the pandemic, the need for mediators was really highlighted — even with people not having a will in place. I love being able to help people navigate those circumstances the best I can.”
A woman with many hats, Rincker is a podcast host of “Ag Law Today” delivered through Purdue University Extension Education, in addition to being a full-time mediator, a three-time book author, editor, and returning adjunct professor at University of Illinois.
From the courtroom to the cattle business, Rincker has been the only woman in many situations, but being the minority hasn’t stopped her from pursuing opportunities.
“There have been a myriad of occasions where I felt that I was the only woman in the room. A part of me welcomes the challenge to step up to the plate, but I feel that we need more female leaders out there as role models for our youth. To show them what it looks like to be a woman in agriculture and show them that they have a place at the table.”
She credits her mother, Pam Rincker, for her entrepreneurial drive. Her mother is the president, founder, and owner of Software Solutions Integrated, LLC, (SSI) who created Agvance software, an agriculture software business. Ricker explains that her mother built SSI from the ground up, out of their home. “My mom owned an agriculture software company in my hometown. It’s actually quite an inspiring story because today she has about 120 employees now, and it is the number one agriculture software company in the country. She started it literally out of my bedroom. I guess entrepreneurship runs in my genes a little bit,” Rincker laughs.
When asked about what tools she was given by her family and mentors growing up, Rincker says, “I owe a lot of my professional success today to that work ethic that I learned growing up on a family farm. I wasn’t allowed to sleep in on the weekends, and I really enjoyed working with my father out at the barn. A strong work ethic and my agricultural roots propelled me to where I am in life.”
- Category: Women of ASA
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