Comida y tierra is a Spanish immersion conversation organized by the Kingston Land Trust in collaboration with the Kingston YMCA Farm Project. We meet quarterly at hispanic restaurants in Kingston to eat a meal together and discuss local food and land initiatives.
Participants identify their level of Spanish fluency and then are assigned to tables according to their level. We invite native Spanish speakers to sit at each table and act as a facilitator, providing language support and helping to guide the conversation with prompts that we provide. We ask that participants who benefit from this support donate to our program to help us compensate facilitators with a meal.
In between events, you can use our Comida y tierra Facebook page as forum to organize English or Spanish language meet-ups or exchanges, or post language resources for the community.
The dinners range from 30-50 attendees, with native Spanish speakers representing anywhere from a quarter to more than a third of those who participate. Each table of four can count on one or two native Spanish speakers to lead the conversation and provide language support to those who are practicing Spanish.
The restaurant prepares a buffet of a few of their most popular dishes, from which a meal costs $10 for non-native Spanish speakers. The Kingston Land Trust provides complimentary meals to the native Spanish speakers who attend in exchange for volunteering their time as facilitators. There is always a vegetarian and non-dairy option.
The event is targeted toward Spanish-speakers with at least a basic conversational level of Spanish to maintain an immersive environment and allow conversation to flow. However, participants are organized at tables based on Spanish proficiency: advanced, intermediate, and beginner. Each table of four can count on one or two native Spanish speakers to lead the conversation and provide language support to those who are practicing Spanish.
Each Comida y tierra has a different theme around which the conversation will be centered. Themes in the past have been use of outdoor space for recreation, the Kingston Greenline, contributing to Kingston’s Open Space Plan and urban agriculture. Spanish-speaking staff and board members from the Kingston Land Trust give a short introduction to the theme and join the smaller groups to work with the native Spanish speakers to facilitate conversation. There are also materials on the tables such as maps, photos, and conversation starter handouts.
As part of the Comida y tierra series, the Kingston Land Trust produced outreach and informational materials in Spanish about upcoming Kingston Greenline projects and the City of Kingston’s Open Space Plan in order remove the language barrier that often discourages the hispanic population of Kingston from participating in public process.
Comida y tierra is building a base of trust and new cross-cultural relationships. Through this effort, the Kingston Land Trust has identified volunteer interpreters to attend relevant public meetings so that those who speak Spanish as their dominant language (15% of the population of Kingston) can participate. In addition to learning from our growing and diverse base, we will be able to engage the Comida y tierra attendees in public input into future Kingston Land Trust projects, as well as our board of directors.
Come back to the Hispanic restaurants and continue to engage with Kingston’s vibrant and friendly Spanish-speaking community.
There is a Comida y tierra Facebook page that allows participants to stay in touch with each other and post resources in between events, as well as a place for the Kingston Land Trust to provide Spanish-language outreach on other initiatives and events in Kingston.
Most of the Kingston Land Trust events are bilingual, with Spanish interpretation available, and are advertised as such. Thus, attending other Kingston Land Trust events is another way to continue to engage with Kingston’s Spanish-speaking community, oftentimes in an outdoor environment.
The program was launched in the Spring of 2017 as a join initiative of the Kingston Land Trust, led by Julia Farr, and the YMCA Farm Project, led by KayCee Wimbish. During the first year, Comida y tierra events were monthly and took place as community picnics in addition to restaurants.