Abundant Life Seed Foundation
Port Townsend,
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.

1992 Farm Gathering

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."[4]

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.[1]

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.[2]

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 original intent.

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.

Information Sources:

  1. Mission Statement from 1999

  2. "Fire Hits Rare-Seed Collection," The Capital Press, August 8, 2003

  3. Abundant Life Seed Foundation's Demise - Seedsmen.org

  4. Territorial & Abundant Life on GardenWeb - 1/14/09

This tribute to great pioneers in horticulture was created and is sponsored by:
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