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ABC Debuts New Conservation and Sustainability Award in Memory of Herbal Expert Steven Foster

The late author, botanist, and photographer will also posthumously receive the ABC Champion Award

By Hannah Bauman

The American Botanical Council (ABC) has introduced the ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award, an annual award which recognizes excellence in conservation, sustainability, and regenerative farming efforts related to medicinal and aromatic plants. The award is named in honor of botanist, author, and photographer Steven Foster, who died on January 15, 2022, and commemorates his professional interest, writing, and advocacy work in this field.

Each year, the Foster Award will recognize an individual, nonprofit organization, or company that is committed to sustainable and regenerative practices in the botanical industry. Recipients will be taking action to address botanical sustainability issues and contributing to a broader understanding of cultural and biological diversity, soil health, climate change, and more. They will also demonstrate appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and be involved with collaboration and cooperation that transcend a particular discipline.

Foster had more than 40 years of experience with sustainability and conservation in the botanical industry. He served as a founding member of the United Plant Savers advisory board, advocated for industry trade resolutions to protect threatened botanicals, and consulted for ABC’s Sustainable Herbs Program (SHP).

SHP Director Ann Armbrecht, PhD, said: “In creating the criteria for this award, we hope to celebrate not only a commitment to concrete action, but also Steven’s ability to bridge worlds and his appreciation for the beauty of the natural world, especially the beauty of plants. He was an herbalist, scientist, historian, photographer, writer, and much more. And he brought all those perspectives to his work with plants.

“I once asked Steven how he approached photographing plants,” Armbrecht continued. “In his reply, he talked about awareness: ‘Being aware, I suppose, is simply approaching the world with awe…. It means experiencing the world with more than an open mind, but an open heart and believing in one’s own intuition, listening within, to move beyond the ordinary experience of the world.’”

Foster served on the ABC Board of Trustees for 22 years, 10 of them as the board president. He wrote more than 100 articles for ABC’s peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram and helped support the organization’s nonprofit research and educational mission. His compelling photographs of medicinal plants have appeared in every issue of HerbalGram since issue 24 in 1991, and his photos have graced the cover of 59 issues.

For these and many other reasons, ABC also posthumously bestowed the 2022 ABC Champion Award to Foster. The ABC Champion Award, which was first awarded in 2015, is given to individuals who have donated time and/or funds to support ABC’s nonprofit research and educational mission, publications, and programs.

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal said: “It is quite clear that as much or more than anyone else, Steven gave his time, energy, writing, and photography to support and expand ABC’s unique nonprofit mission. Even though it has been our normal policy that members of the ABC Board of Trustees are exempt from consideration for any of ABC’s awards, in this case, we here at ABC are all in agreement that Steven is truly deserving of this award. This is in recognition of his invaluable and irreplaceable gifts to ABC.”

Previous recipients of the ABC Champion Award are: former US Food and Drug Administration pharmacologist Jerry Cott, PhD (2021); herbal science expert Thomas Brendler, PhD (2019); NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme (2018); supplement industry insurance broker Dick Griffin (2017); botanical expert Josef Brinckmann (2016); Herb Pharm co-founder Ed Smith (2015); and EuroPharma founder Terry Lemerond (2014).

The recipient of the inaugural ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award was announced at the 17th Annual ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards Ceremony on March 9, 2022, in Anaheim, California, as part of Natural Products Expo West. This is the seventh award created by ABC to recognize outstanding work in the medicinal and aromatic plant communities.

Other ABC Awards that were presented at the ABC Celebration on March 9 included:

  • The ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award
  • The ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award
  • The ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award
  • The ABC Fredi Kronenberg Excellence in Research and Education in Botanicals for Women’s Health Award
  • The ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award

The ABC Celebration was underwritten by the generous support of Alkemist Labs, Amin Talati Wasserman LLP, Applied Food Sciences, Brassica Protection Products, ChromaDex, Euromed, EuroPharma, Herbalife, Horphag Research, Indena USA, Informa, MegaFood, Natural Factors, New Chapter, NOW Foods, PlusPharma, RFI, RT Specialty, UNPA, and Verdure Sciences.