Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse

(Photo credit: Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse)

A passion for creating healthy food and baking their own bread

Using traditional techniques to create loaves with complex flavour, chewy crumb & crisp, rich crust.



Tucked away off the beaten path on beautiful St. Joseph Island is an old farmstead once owned by the Still family and, before that, the Churches. In 2013, the 100-acre farm was purchased by Nicholas and Bethany Higgins. Nicholas, a mathematics major and carpenter by trade, is from Edmonton, Alberta. Bethany grew up on St. Joe and they now have two small boys, four and two years old. They were looking for a place they could raise their children and live close to the land, and they always knew that the Island was that place. They both have a passion to create their own healthy food and baking their own bread is part of that passion.

They decided to take that passion and turn it into a business. With a small business/entrepreneur grant, they were able to build Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse.

The newly built, stand-alone bakehouse is on their farm property, next to their home. The stone brick, bread oven, fired by wood sourced from their own property, was built by a master oven builder.

stillcroft farm oven
(Photo credit: Sandra Trainor)

Nicholas explained to me that their certified organic flour is sourced from K2 Milling in Beeton, Ontario and that their artisanal bread contains just three simple ingredients; flour, water and salt. That is the base for all their breads, with variations, depending on the type of bread they decide to bake. The bread is naturally leavened, so instead of yeast to raise the dough, they use a sourdough starter, which fulfills both these functions very well. He further explained that a sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water which is allowed to ferment, gathering beneficial wild yeasts and bacteria to develop into a living organism.

kneading dough into bread loaves
(Photo credit: Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse)

The living sourdough culture then needs to be fed daily—if kept nourished and well cared for, it could last for generations and beyond—and, in turn, develops the bread! Nicholas says that bread made this way is healthier because the bacteria in the sourdough culture actually works to predigest starches and break down the gluten, making the grain more digestible (some people with gluten intolerance find they can eat sourdough bread with no ill effects). Lactic acids make the vitamins and minerals in the flour more available to the body by helping neutralise the phytates in flour that would interfere with their absorption. The culture is also purported to lead to better blood glucose regulation, making it more appropriate for people with diabetes. (Source: Stillcroftbakehouse.com)

He further explained that because their bread is allowed to naturally ferment, it takes nine hours from mixing to baking to complete. Commercial breads take just one hour. He told me that it feels good to sell products that are not only good quality, but are good for your body. To their knowledge, no one else in the area offers bread made this way. Stillcroft describes their bread like this: “We use traditional techniques to produce loaves with a complex flavour, chewy crumb and crisp, rich crust.”

man taking granola from oven
(Photo credit: Sandra Trainor)
stillcroft farm granola
(Photo credit: Sandra Trainor)

I visited the bakehouse on a Wednesday and Nicholas was baking some granola, a new product they have added to their offerings. Early each Friday morning, Nicholas starts the bread making process. Their bread products include:

Regular Loaves

  • Country loaf (heavily sifted - closest to white bread)
  • Roasted garlic and potato
  • Whole wheat (100% whole grain)
  • 65% rye
  • Multigrain (100% whole grain)
  • Light Rye (15% rye)

Specialty loaves that include spelt (made occasionally).

At about the time the Higgins’ started their bread business, the Mill Farmers’ Market in Sault Ste. Marie opened. They were one of the original vendors and have been a popular full-time vendor since, offering their bread and granola products there on Saturday market days. Nicholas said that they have a great group of regular customers at the market and see many tourists stopping by and picking up loaves. During the season, they can also be found at the Hilton Beach Farmers’ Market. Their bread has become an in-demand staple with not only the year-round locals on the island, but with the seasonal cottagers and tourists passing through.

stillcroft farm and bakehouse breads
(Photo credit: Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse)

While the bakehouse is not open to the public, Stillcroft Farm and Bakehouse started another way of offering their bread to St. Joe Island residents. They offer a 16-week share, much like a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA), where customers prepay for their bread at the beginning (approximately $100) and will get a loaf of freshly baked bread delivered to their door each Friday. Bethany takes care of the delivery on a route based on where their customers are. Mostly in Hilton Beach and Richards Landing and points between.

I asked Nicholas what their plans are for their business in the future. He said their focus is staying with a consistent, quality product and to welcome new customers. The farming portion of their operation is not in their immediate plans other than for their own needs, but definitely will be expanding in the coming years. It’s so great to see a new generation of food artisans move into the area and create a new enterprise!

Follow happenings at the bakehouse on social media: www.facebook.com/stillcroft or call (705) 910-1133

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