Nature’s Nurture

Petaluma's new Sunflower Center

“I love feeding people,” says Lydia Kindheart, creator of Petaluma’s new Sunflower Center. “Our food choices have a tremendous impact on us and on the planet, and I want to bring healthy food to the world.”

The daughter of a U.N. delegate to Africa, Kindheart was affected early in life by the suffering of people who were truly starving. And though her adult life has been spent both as a health-food caterer, restaurateur and wholesale food purveyor, Kindheart is now addressing the suffering of the ostensibly well-fed—those who hunger for contact with other people. So she will be serving up more than food.

On Dec. 3, from 11am to 11pm, Kindheart will open the doors to the Sunflower Center at 1435 N. McDowell Blvd., Ste. 100, in Petaluma—a space for healthful eating, sustainable shopping, child’s play, live entertainment and learning. “The grand opening isn’t till January,” explains Kindheart. “This first one is a soft opening, partly a birthday party, so not everything will be in place yet.”

Certainly the vision is in place. “People need a place to gather, a place that’s beautiful and comfortable and where they feel welcome to be,” explains Kindheart, whose 8,000-square-foot Sunflower Center boasts a restaurant—similar to her present health food restaurant, Lydia’s Kitchen in Fairfax, only larger—and a (future) gluten-free bakery; a retail area featuring eco-products, including organic clothing; a performance stage; and an area where workshops and classes will be offered primarily on a donation basis.

“That way even if a person doesn’t have any money,” explains Kindheart, “they can still learn. I want to invite the elders—they have lots of skills and wisdom to share. Society wants to keep us separate, yet we need each other.”

At the heart of it all is food—organic, vegetarian and raw foods so delicious and, based on my recent “undercover” detective meal in Fairfax, joyfully served that I can’t help concluding Kindheart is sincere in her vision for the Sunflower Center. “I love to prepare good, healthy food,” says Kindheart. “And I really believe that what we eat determines how we feel physically and emotionally. When you get food consciously prepared with knowledge and care, you’re really getting something.”

Kindheart, credited with opening the first raw foods restaurant in California 15 years ago, describes her work as a calling. “It’s a passion, a gift,” say Kindheart. “People need the support of available healthy food. And there are more lonely people on the planet than ever. I want to recreate the village, the tribe. It’s what I want to bring to the world.”

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