Road work balances well with fieldwork for farmer and MnDOT employee

Joe Fieseler said during the Agweek Farm Show in Rochester on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, that working for the Minnesota Department Transportation has been a good fit with farming.

Joe Fieseler, center, and Mike Dougherty, right, of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, discuss farm traffic in the state with Katie Pinke, publisher of Agweek, during the Agweek Farm Show in Rochester, Minnesota, on March 8, 2023.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

ROCHESTER, Minn. — If a farmer is looking for an off-farm job, Joe Fieseler endorses the route he chose, working for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“It has been a good fit. It offers the stability in your income and your home life to where the farm doesn’t have to support, in a bad year, you’re living and some of the day-to-day bills,” Fieseler said.

Fieseler, who farms near Eyota in Olmsted County, talked about his off-farm job with MnDOT during the Agweek Farm Show on March 8 in Rochester.

MnDOT was recruiting potential employees and providing information on things such as living snow fences, weight restrictions and communicating with the department.

Fieseler started out with the department as a heavy equipment operator and snowplow driver, jobs that he says farmers are usually well-suited for. He has worked his way up to be the operations supervisor for the Winona area in southeast Minnesota.


Fieseler farms in the Eyota area of Olmsted County with about 2,000 acres of cash crops — corn, soybeans, sweet corn and peas, as well as finish feeding hogs and keeping a small beef cow herd.

He said the speed of modern farm equipment has helped get the farm work done while still putting in his time with MnDOT, which has been flexible with allowing time off when fieldwork is urgent. And working for the state provides much-appreciated benefits.

“One of the few jobs around that still has a pension plan,” Fieseler said. “And then the health insurance is some of the best around as well.”

As a supervisor, Fieseler spends more time communicating with the public and overseeing the kinds of job he used to do, like plowing snow.

“You’d clear the pavement, then it was like the Indy 500,” Fieseler said of some of the traffic hazards. “You’re trying to do your job plowing at 20 miles per hour and they’re trying to pass you at 70.”

Looking ahead to the 2023 growing season, Fieseler said he sees “input costs that are through the roof" and profit margins that are getting tighter every day.

“That makes it a little bit uncomfortable,” he said. “The job off the farm helps stabilize things a little bit in your day-to-day life.”

Reach Jeff Beach at or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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