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Territorial & Abundant Life

January 14, 2009

These appear to be the same company - same owner, same selection, same prices. Anybody know why there are two different names and two catalogs?

I tried searching this forum for posts about Territorial but got no hits. Hard to believe nobody ever posted about them here! I've always had good service and good success with most of their seed, but they can be expensive.

Comments (3)

  • marlingardener

    Abundant Life was bought out by Territorial. According to Garden Watchdog, Territorial has a very high customer satisfaction rating. The only negative for Abundant Life was about their shipping costs. Many of the reviewers agreed that the seed from Territorial is expensive.
    Try searching on Garden Watchdog, then search for both companies and see for yourself what other gardeners say. You can also do a general search on the type of seed (for example "Johnny Nardello pepper") and a list of vendors will come up.

  • herbalmama

    Since you asked.... here is the long answer.
    Abundant Life Seeds (aka Abundant Life Seed Foundation) was born in the mid-1970's - close to the same time as Territorial Seeds was established by Steve Soloman. Abundant Life Seeds began in Port Townsend, WA and Territorial was where it is now, near Cottage Grove, OR.

    Forest Shomer was one of the front-runners in the concept of bio-diversity, saving heirloom varieties, promoting open-pollinated seeds and many concepts along those lines. In its early days, Territorial's main intent was to first offer seed to people that lived in the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades. Steve Soloman saw a niche that needed to be filled, because so many vegetable growers in our cool, rainy climate had many difficulties growing seed developed for the warmer parts of the U.S. and the majority of the large, seed suppliers of the day only offered those seeds.

    Soloman was also an organic gardener and promoted it through his books and culture directions in his catalog. Anyone who is "in" to organics knows that open pollinated is good so you can save your own seed whenever popular. He was also on the band wagon with Forest Shomer in those days with promoting bio-diversity and stopping the loss of heirloom varieties.

    I should mention at this point, that I was a very involved customer of both of these companies during the 1980's. Since I live close, I drove to Port Townsend on a regular basis to shop and Abundant Life Seeds were at the top of my list. I spoke with Forest Shomer on several occasions and was, of course, impressed by what he was doing.

    If I recall correctly, as part of his seed program, he was recruiting growers to grow and collect seed of certain varieties to add to the seed stock for the company. These growers would get credit towards other seed.

    I am not certain when Abundant Life was no longer in Port Townsend, but it was sometime in the 1990's. I'm not sure if he sold the company to someone else or had been a partner with those people and phased himself out. It was during this time, I started noticing seed packets on their own commercial racks and it appeared they had gone "big time" with their OP and heirloom varieties.

    In 2003, Abundant Life suffered a huge fire loss. It was after this that the seed selling part of the business was bought out by Territorial, to become a sister company of Territorial.

    I think it is an excellent pairing. Territorial main focus is still to offer seed for varieties that grow well in the maritime Northwest and other cool season areas, with special focus on organic growers. Abundant Life has to now offering only Certified Organic seed, and their seed offering is not just for Pacific Northwest growers, but other areas as well.

    The long and the short of it is that we have a lot to thank both Steve Soloman and Forest Shomer for. They were pivotal "in the day" for getting the movement going to buck the big congomerate seed companies like Burpees, who had all but cornered the whole seed market. Thanks, guys!

  • donbosque

    Thanks for your kind comments. BTW, I found your painted eggs online and they are exquisite!
    Being that some historical notes in your message were uncertain, I'm writing to clarify.
    (1)Abundant Life Seeds was my first mailorder seed business (1973) and first published catalog (an origami folded 17x17 sheet) appeared in 1974. At that point, it was the first explicitly bioregional seed source anywhere, offering heirloom vegies with a NW heritage orientation, herbs, flowers, and a spectrum of native-plant seeds from trees to grasses. Prior to that, I marketed "Growing Family Seeds" through a natural food store that I managed in Seattle (1972-3). ALS morphed in ALSFoundation in 1975 when I gave the business assets to a 501(c)3 nonprofit set up to continue the work. Thereafter, I never owned any of it, simply managed the Foundation until 1992, at which point I left to start a new endeavor, but did not/could not sell the assets.

    (2)Territorial Seeds first appeared in 1980; the previous summer, Steve Solomon visited me at home on the Olympic Peninsula to 'pick my brain' about marketing regionally-oriented vegetable seed selections; I had no idea that he planned to become a business rival!

    (3) You are correct about the grower network, which operated primarily via barter for about 15 years during my aegis, and grew to about 50 members, some of whom still produce garden seed in the region.

    (4) Abundant Life began to appear on its own unique sales rack in stores as early as 1974. When I left in 1992, distribution was through around 180 outlets in 25 states, mainly in food coops, emphasizing the link between organics and open-pollinated, heritage seeds.

    (5) My personal inclination turned increasingly to native plants and after receiving favorable publicity in 1992, I left ALSF to start another endeavor which I continue to the present. My growth as an artist (seed-growing is a form of art) and educator (I gave over 200 seed-saving workshops during those years) had become increasingly stymied by the nonprofit board of directors' policies; so I made a new beginning as 'owner' in order to more fully express my creativity. It was a great decision both as an artist and as a sole-proprietor!

    (6)My successors at ALSF pulled the national seed rack program soon after I left. ALSF became more of a grant-supported institution through 2003, when the assets were offered for sale in the Capital Press (Salem OR) one week before the fire. Some months later, Territorial Seeds acquired those assets including the trade name, which was shortened to the original "Abundant Life Seeds", and has continued since then in a way that is substantially true to the original intent of Abundant Life.

    I had no further relationship in any way with the business or policies of ALSF after June, 1992. And at that time I closed out my 20-year career as a heritage seed producer, and took a further step "into the wild" with wildcrafted seed, virtually all of which is found in-situ, i.e., not raised in gardens.

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