Falcon Heights, Minn. — While many State Fair visitors were noshing on corn dogs, deep-fried candy bars and other food on a stick, some dined on confit of duck rillette with roasted corn and lavender vinaigrette. Others sank their teeth into a Monte Cristo on Brioche with pork, Swiss cheese and fruit compote.

This wasn’t a new food stand, but savory entrees produced by chefs in the State Fair’s Minnesota Cooks program at Carousel Park. Now in its seventh year, the one-day event features hourly food demonstrations by chefs from top Minnesota restaurants. The audience is served up samples, then a panel of chefs and Minnesota farmers who produced the fresh ingredients answer questions.

This year, Minnesota Cooks “needed to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers,” says Doug Peterson, president of Minnesota Farmers Union, which organizes the event along with Food Alliance Midwest. AURI is the primary sponsor.

Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis, says 65 percent of the ingredients used in his restaurant are locally grown. “It’s a huge advantage for a restaurant to use really fresh ingredients,” Schwartzman says.

“AURI works in many different areas of agriculture, from renewable energy to industrial products and food,” says Dennis Timmerman, AURI project director. “Strengthening the connection between consumers and the farmers who produce their food can only help the agriculture industry.”