2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Jennifer Johanna Kalyuzhny

Jennifer Johanna Kalyuzhny

Name of Host Organization: Farmers' Legal Action Group
City, State: St. Paul, Minnesota
Issue area: Immigrant Populations/Minorities, Community/Economic Development
Sponsors: Deere & Company, Inc; Lane & Waterman LLP; Schiff Hardin LLP

The Project

My project goal is to fill the unmet need for extended representation of low-income immigrant and beginning family farmers in Minnesota. As many farmers throughout the country approach retirement age, the training of new farmers to operate successfully within our agricultural system is becoming increasingly important. Many of Minnesota’s new farmers come from immigrant communities facing significant legal, administrative, and cultural conflicts and misunderstandings, and my project will allow me to help them achieve complete resolution of their legal challenges.

The Inspiration

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From the very beginning of law school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in nonprofit agricultural law. I immediately fell in love with the mission of the Farmers' Legal Action Group, as it is the only nonprofit law center in the country dedicated to preserving family farms. Growing up in Southeast Minnesota, I was exposed to farming from an early age. I later married a Russian immigrant, and my experiences with my new family have sharpened my awareness of the struggles immigrants face with assimilation, language barriers, and cultural miscommunications. Many of Minnesota's new farmers come from immigrant communities, and my background has made me uniquely passionate about helping them navigate the legal, administrative, and cultural challenges they face.

Biography

Hometown:

Rochester, Minnesota

Law school:

Making the connection:

My commitment to social justice was the reason I went to law school--I knew from the beginning that I was there to learn skills that would be particularly valuable for empowering disadvantaged populations.

Surviving law school:

I preserved my passion for public interest law throughout law school by trying to always be mindful of why I was attending to begin with, and by volunteering at organizations I believed in deeply. Participating in work that I was passionate about was, and continues to be, extremely energizing for me.

Recommended books:

Flowers for Algernon (short story), by Daniel Keyes: This story was given to me by my father when I was very young, and it created a deep and lasting impression on me. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan: While not without its flaws, this book played a significant role in starting my journey toward a career in agricultural law.

Favorite website(s):

http://www.agandfoodlaw.com/ - An example of one of the many informative agriculture and food law and policy blogs available.

Words to live by:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

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