Family turns beans into treats

MIDDLEBURY — Under the first tent of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market in the Marble Works District, one Shoreham family has used unconventional ingredients to transform typical baked goods into vegan, gluten-free treats.
At first glance, a typical market-goer would never guess that the trays of decadent looking brownies are actually made from baked beans.
“It’s hard sometimes for people to wrap their head around a black bean in a brownie, but when they have a sample, they’re definitely surprised,” said Hannah Zeno, who began this endeavor in an effort to teach her children entrepreneurial skills this summer.
Each of Zeno’s three children plays a distinct role in the business, called the Baked Bean Project. Lucas Farrell, 13, handles the project’s social media, having learned web design in his computer tech class at Middlebury Union Middle School. Bailey Farrell, 12, handles the business’s finances, and Riley Farrell, 10, is the self-described “face” of the Baked Bean Project.
Zeno began experimenting with gluten-free baking when Riley developed an intolerance to certain foods.
“Coming up with food that she can eat within that realm forced us to be creative,” Zeno said. “Sometimes challenges ultimately force you to have ideas that are successful.”
“Being gluten free, I would never find anything tasty,” said Riley. “People think that healthy can’t be good, but it can!”
Zeno and her children began this summer project by researching recipes and marketing strategies.
“We went to Hannaford’s to look at labels,” said Bailey. “We noticed which ones caught our eye. It was usually the plain and simple ones, so that’s why our logo is plain and simple.”
Now, Zeno, her three children and one of Bailey’s friends, spend each Tuesday baking before setting up their stand each Wednesday at the farmers’ market.
“Being at the farmers’ market, we have the best audience right here for our products,” Zeno said during a break at the market this past Wednesday. “Last week was our first week, and we sold out. We’ll be here every Wednesday and some Saturdays.”
While Zeno says the baked bean brownies are most popular among customers, Lucas, Bailey and Riley all say they prefer the sweet potato pie fudge. The Baked Bean Project also occasionally sells apple pies and variations of the classic baked bean brownie.
While the Baked Bean Project currently sells its products exclusively at the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, Zeno says they would like to expand further into local markets.
“We’re hoping to meet a need here in Middlebury and also have some fun at the same time,” said Zeno.
Regardless, Zeno says the project has already proven successful.
“We have met some great people at the farmers’ market from the community, and it makes me happy as a mom to see my kids looking people in the eye and not at a handheld gaming device or phone. We are looking forward to a busy summer and more life lessons in the kitchen as we go.”

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