Renee Krell of Hammonton baked the best peach pie in South Jersey, according to pie judges Kevin Riordan of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Derek Timm of “Small Bites” on Wildfire Radio and blog.

Her pie, the finalist at the Hammonton Farmers Market, was declared the best of three South Jersey “Perfect Peach Pie” amateur baking competition final entries held at Hammonton, Brigantine and Margate farmers markets. The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council presented her with a $300 check, the South Jersey grand prize, at Tortilla Press in Collingswood, which hosted the finals earlier this month. Sarah Deller of Lebanon, finalist at the Edison Farmers Market, also received $300 as the grand prize for North Jersey.

This was the fourth year for the “The Perfect Peach Pie” competition. “The pie competition is an added component of our “Peach Parties,” created to call attention to our own locally grown peaches and nectarines and held at farmers markets, supermarkets and restaurants throughout the state,” says Santo Maccherone, chair of the NJPPC. “We’re pleased that both seem to be focusing consumer attention on our peaches, which consumers report really are the best out there, probably because we have the right climate and soil balance.”

Some farmers markets use their competitions for charity. “The pie contests are a big draw for our market; attendees want to sample those pies,” says Dave Roantree, manager of the Brigantine market. “This year, we had seven entries, and after the pies are judged, we slice them and sell slices for $1 to raise funds for our local food bank.”

The Peach Parties begin at the start of New Jersey’s peach season, in late June and continue at various venues until early/mid-September. Peach Parties’ popularity has been growing since their inception in 2008, with the “Perfect Peach Pie” competitions introduced in 2012. This year there were 32 peach parties and 11 pie contests.

The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council is a nonprofit voluntary organization of growers, shippers, wholesalers and associated industries dedicated to maintaining a viable peach industry in the Garden State providing the highest quality and best tasting fresh peaches for consumers, at the same time preserving farmers and farmland. New Jersey is the fourth largest peach producing state in the country, with approximately 75 orchards on 5,000 acres, producing 22,000-25,000 tons, valued at approximately $30 million.

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