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Power of the pie: Aberdeenshire farm rises from ashes in Alford

From making hundreds of pies each day to creating a habitat for wildlife, we found out why an Aberdeenshire business is set to thrive at this year's Taste of Grampian.

Sabrina Marchal on site at Wark Farm, with the trademark pies. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Sabrina Marchal on site at Wark Farm, with the trademark pies. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

As stories go, the tale behind Wark Farm is rather inspiring.

The gorgeous spot can be found at Cushnie near Alford, where you’ll find 200 acres of rolling fields complete with Belted Galloway cattle and Hebridean sheep.

This isn’t your average agricultural business however, as the organic site hosts an open day once a month so people can experience the ethos first hand.

At this time of year, the land is looking particularly beautiful with thick blankets of clover and the frothy yellow flowers of lady’s bedstraw.

For Sabrina Marchal and Laurel Foreman, wild flowers meadows and flourishing wetlands are all part of their vision.

The lovely spot near Alford has Belted Galloway cattle.  Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“Wildlife and farming are often in opposing camps, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Sabrina.

“Getting the balance right is not easy, but it can be done.”

It’s perhaps this have a go attitude which means Wark Farm has ultimately flourished, despite devastating circumstances.

In 2018, a huge fire destroyed the onsite butchery and workshops.

Laurel, who had put everything into the business and surrounding farmland for 20 years, faced the possibility of losing everything.

But there was one thing at the heart of Wark Farm, which proved there was still a fight to be had.

Pies may not sound particularly inspiring, but Wark Farm is famed for creating pies like no other.

Wark Farm is famed for its delicious pies. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

The craft pies are made on site and completely from scratch, right down to the golden pastry.

Even the beef and lamb filling comes from the animals grazing the fields, with vegetables also locally sourced.

Stocked at dozens of cafes, Laurel and Sabrina have created a loyal fanbase with customers following them from market to market in pursuit of pie excellence.

Fillings include rich cheesy beef alongside lamb and prune, plus a pea and onion recipie which has both meat eaters and vegetarians asking for more.

The thriving enterprise has enabled Laurel and Sabrina to grow their vision year by year, and they have created a safe haven for birds such as oystercatchers and lapwings.

Pictured are from left, Sabrina Marchal, Georgie Bain and Laurel Foreman. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Thankfully you don’t need to go on a road trip to experience Wark Farm Pies, as Laurel and Sabrina are preparing to make an appearance at Taste of Grampian on June 3.

The premier food and drink festival will kick off at P&J Live, and the pair can’t wait to bring their products to an even wider audience.

We caught up with Sabrina and found out why pies have enabled this Aberdeenshire business to triumph.

Tell me about Wark Farm Pies, what makes you stand out?

We’re the only farm to pie business, we even make the pastry ourselves with a secret recipe.

If you have a butcher, they won’t make the pastry or be raising the animals for example.

Laurel Foreman preparing meat.
All the pies, including the contents, is prepared on site. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

We’re a very different business, our pies are our way of letting people taste Scotland’s wild richness.

It’s our way of sharing the wild beauty of the farm, which continues to inspire us.

We have a small team, but we make 700-1000 pies each day.

I hear you have royal approval as well?

Yes, our butchery has a royal warrant meaning we can use the Royal Arms.

We realised this year, we need to be less shy about standing out.

A lot of our customers, even our longstanding ones, didn’t realise we have a royal warrant.

Do you have a favourite filling?

My personal favourite it’s our rich cheesy beef pie.

It’s made with aged Belted Galloway beef, topped up with a rich cheese.

It has an extremely strong beefy taste and is also incredibly moist.

Our caramelised onion and pea pie has garden peas, potatoes, fennel and garlic alongside slow roasted onions.

Pies in the oven at Wark Farm where everything is baked on site. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

It was only meant to be a seasonal pie, but it became so popular that it now has a fixed place on our selection.

We attended Taste of Grampian last year, there was a huge queue building and I realised no-one had brought one of our veggie pies.

We hadn’t listed the filling on our board, I started giving out samples and even meat eaters absolutely loved them.

Do you have any new flavours coming up?

There’s a funny story here.

I was away from the farm for a few days and when I got back, the pie making team had been busy.

They did an onion and cheese pie, I had always been resistant about the idea.

From left, Georgie Bain, Sabrina Marchal and Laurel Foreman at Wark Farm, where the public can visit on allocated open days. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Having tried it, it’s absolutely fantastic.

It will be making its debut at Taste of Grampian, the team have been dreaming about it for so long.

It seems like there have been so many exciting developments in the last few years?

We loved our collaboration with the Seafood Bothy in Stonehaven.

We developed a Cullen Skink pie, and we also collaborated with Elchies – a goat farm, in Craigellachie for who we make delicious smoked paprika goat pies.

Laurel Foreman has been working hard on the vision for Wark Farm, and the business has recovered from a devastating fire. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Then there’s the name change of our pork pie to a pork & bacon pie so that people would realize that the deep rich flavour in our pork pies comes from our farm cured bacon that we add to the pie filling.

Where are your pies stocked?

Our pies can be found in places such as Mount Cafe, Tartan Pig, , Parx Cafe, Park Shop, Tarmachan Cafe, Hazelnut Patisserie, Spider On A Bicyclye, Boat Inn, Castleton Farm Shop, but also in further away places such as Blair Castle.

We’d love to be present in cafes all over Scotland, and we’ve also started going to more festivals.

What do you love about Wark Farm Pies?

For Laurel it’s being close to nature, close to the source of everything.

She has a background as an ecologist, so seeing the number of oystercatchers increasing and nesting is very satisfying.

From my side, I’m passionate about developing good food.

Say if I cook a nice meal for Laurel, she is morally obliged to say that she likes it.

Wark Farm boasts a kitchen and butchery near Cushnie, Alford.  Image: Julia SidelSoci

But when you make a product that people drive for miles to get, that’s such a good feeling.

It keeps you standing when you just want to fall onto the couch, it’s incredibly gratifying.

We also love the contact we get to have with chefs, forages, we get to speak to all these people who have a love for food.

You can find out more at, or follow the business on Instagram at wark_farm.

For more information on Taste of Grampian, head to