Abundant Life Seed Foundation
1973 to 2003
Abundant Life Seed Foundation (ALSF) began
as a mail order seed company founded by Forest Shomer in 1973. His
first catalog was published in 1974 as a 17-inch by 17-inch folded origami
sheet. It was the first exclusively bioregional seed source and
focused on heirloom vegetables with a Pacific Northwest heritage along
with herbs, flowers, and native plant seeds of trees to grasses.
In 1975, Abundant Life Seeds (ALS) became
the Abundant Life Seed Foundation when Shomer gave the business assets to
a 501(c)3 nonprofit set up to continue the work. He continued as a
director and managed the foundation until 1992 at which time he left to
pursue other interests.
Mr. Shomer was a pioneer in field of
biodiversity and in working with heirlooms even predating Kent Whealy's
formation of the Seed Savers Exchange. During his nearly twenty
years as a seedsman and educator, he promoted seed saving through the seed
catalog and by making hundreds of presentations and workshops.
Seeds for ALSF were not sourced thorough
conventional seed industry channels. They instead were produced by a
network of small growers that primarily worked on a barter basis. By
the mid-90s, the network had reached, and for logistical reasons was
maintained at, about fifty member growers.
Along with marketing via a mail order
catalog, they distributed via seed racks through approximately 180 outlets
in twenty five states. The racks were primarily in food cooperatives
that were emphasizing the link between organics and open-pollinated,
heritage seeds. The seed rack model was eventually dropped sometime
after Shomer left the organization.
ALSF evolved into more of a grant-supported
institution and was reportedly looking to sell off the seed company
operations. According to Mr. Shomer, "the assets were offered for
sale in the Capital Press (Salem OR) one week before the fire."
1999 Mission Statement: Abundant Life Seed Foundation was a 501(c)3
non-profit organization in the State of Washington whose purposes were to
preserve genetic diversity and support sustainable agriculture through
acquiring, propagating, preserving and distributing native and naturalized
seed, with specific emphasis on those species not commercially available.
This included rare and endangered species; providing information on plant
and seed propagation; and aiding in the preservation of native and
naturalized plants through cultivation.
On August 4, 2003,
fire destroyed the
Abundant Life Seed Foundation's offices. The fire destroyed their entire
operation – most of the seed archive, a rare library of books, education
and research materials, seed packaging facilities, and the seed inventory
of the both the catalog business and the World Seed Fund (WSF). They did
have an offsite backup of customer data, financials and of a small
percentage of the seed archive. The timing of the disaster was such
that if prevented the ability to print the 2004 seed catalog.
Since at the time of the fire ALSF was in
the process of an organizational change, and with the 2004 catalog season
lost, the board of directors had time to reflect on past accomplishments
and future goals. They concluded that the foundation would no longer sell
seeds and they began examining proposals for the sale of the seed
business. They envisioned a future enterprise of "Abundant Life Seeds"
that would interface with the nonprofit's education and research programs.
The nonprofit foundation changed its name to the "Organic Seed Alliance"
in order to delineate this transition.
The Territorial Seed
Company purchased the seed sales operations of the ALSF as a
for-profit sister company beginning with the
2005 season. No longer a non-profit organization, they
changed the name back to the original name - Abundant Life Seeds -
and are operating in a way that is substantially true to the
December, 2012 Update:
This was posted on Territorial Seed Company's web site - "You
have been redirected to our sister company, Territorial Seed
Company’s website. To better serve our customers, our sister
company, Territorial Seed Company, will be offering our favorite
Abundant Life varieties in their 2013 catalog and online at
www.territorialseed.com. The new 2013 Spring catalog will be
available at the end of December
By combining our two product
lines, customers will experience more efficient shopping,
ordering, and shipping options, as well as a greater selection of
Organic and Biodynamic varieties. At Territorial’s website, all of
the Organic and Biodynamic varieties will be easy to access by
clicking here or on the Organics tab on the orange navigation bar
on the home page."
Insight into the organization can be gleaned from old back issues of the
Seed Midden, Abundant Life's newsletter.