Herbfarm creator left lasting legacy
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:21 PM
FALL CITY Bill Zimmer-man loved his herbs. He
grew them, cooked with them and told others about their special
properties. And anyone who visited the Herbfarm, a restaurant, retail
shop, garden and school he created with his wife, Lola, might tell fond
stories of Zimmerman walking around holding a chicken or
insisting they take a few vegetables home because he had grown
In 1974, the Zimmermans founded the now nationally
famous and locally appreciated Herbfarm in Fall City. The
farm started as an overabundance of herbs in the couple's garden
that they decided to sell at a roadside stand. The stand grew to an
internationally known place of unique cuisine and herbal knowledge.
Much of the Herbfarm's popularity was due to
Zimmerman's efforts to educate his patrons on the many uses of herbs. He
would walk around tables piled high with plants, ready for people
to rub them, break them open and smell them.
Now the restaurant's customers will have to find someone
else to teach them the varied benefits of herbs. Zimmerman died Jan.
16, after a battle with colon cancer. He was 83 at the time of his death.
"He was a pretty amazing person," said Carrie Van
Dyck, Zimmerman's daughter-in-law. "He had high expectations
of himself and others. He seemed like he never ran out of energy
he was always doing something." Van Dyck runs the Herbfarm
with husband Ron Zimmerman.
Before the restaurant's opening, as Zimmerman and his
wife, Lola, sold herbs at their roadside stand, they learned that most
of their customers were interested in the herbs' culinary uses. So
the Zimmermans, along with their children, decided a
restaurant would be the perfect place to show how herbs could be
added to every dish in a meal.
The Herbfarm restaurant was born, and along with the
school and retail shop, has won acclaim throughout the country and
the world. Diners were and still are known to make reservations
a year in advance. The restaurant's executive chef, Jerry
Traunfeld, has garnered international recognition for his work.
Although Zimmerman never cooked directly at the
Herbfarm restaurant, the herb expert did plenty of experimentation
"He was always coming over with new ideas we should
try, things we could do with another herb," Van Dyck
said. Zimmerman's favorite herb, she added, was mable gray geranium.
Locals knew Zimmerman for many things, including his
cooking, tending his vegetable garden, keeping animals and his
passion for learning about, growing and educating people about
herbs. Each year, his goal was to have the first ripe vegetables of the
"He was a pretty quiet guy," said Fall City resident Tom
Brice. "He kept to himself most of the time, but I think he was a
thoughtful person and congenial. Mostly he'd be talking about things
he was doing, things he'd like to do in the future."
A fire destroyed the Herbfarm Restaurant in January of 1997.
Instead of rebuilding on the same property, the Zimmermans
reopened the restaurant at Hedges Wine Cellars in Issaquah in
1999. A new Herbfarm Restaurant, complete with gardens and
overnight rooms, will open in early April in Woodinville.
In his later years, Zimmerman worked at the Mountain
View Nutrition Center in Fall City. Here he counseled customers on
the benefits of vitamins, herbs and natural remedies.
At Zimmerman's funeral, his family encouraged people to
get up and talk about their memories, which recalled his impact on
not only the Valley, but also the Eastside and beyond.
The self-made man, as relatives describe him, was born
in July of 1917, in Fairbanks, Alaska. After his father, who was a
mining engineer, died in a cave in the 1920s, the rest of his
family moved to California. To help his family survive the Great
Depression, Zimmerman sold fruit and vegetables from a roadside stand.
As a young man, Zimmerman studied engineering in Los
Angeles. He met his wife in Burbank, Calif., in 1941. They were
married for 59 years. Before coming to Washington, the couple
lived in Gold Beach, Ore., where they built and operated a fishing
resort called Rogue Woods. Their sons, Ron and Bob
Zimmerman, were born in Oregon.
In 1954, the Zimmermans moved to Bellevue, and Zimmerman worked for
Boeing, retiring after 25 years. Prior to leaving Boeing, the Zimmermans
purchased a former berry and dairy farm in Fall City, which later
became the Herbfarm.
Zimmerman's family requests that instead of flowers,
donations be made to Evergreen Hospice Center, 12822 124th Ln.
N.E., Kirkland, WA 98034, (425) 899-1020.