Herbfarm creator left lasting legacy

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

too many.

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

at home.

"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.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.