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Abstract

The focus of farm management, as a discipline, has reflected historically the assumption that farms are embedded in near-perfectly competitive market structures. The common validity of this assumption is plain. As open systems, farms have asymmetric relationships with their environment: they are significantly more influenced by it than influencing it. However, farmers seem often not to appreciate the implications of this for their management options. Nor, arguably, is the farm management discipline yet well equipped to analyse initiatives that farmers might contemplate to enhance their control over market outcomes, specifically, as a means of exerting greater control over business performance. In this paper a framework for the analysis of the prospects for product differentiation of farm output is presented in an attempt to fill this lacuna. Introduction As an academic discipline, historically farm management (FM) has been focused on management decision making (Charry and Parton 2002). The domain of physical agricultural production activities may have been taught within farm management qualifications, but the discipline has persistently involved analysis for decisions. Within it farms are characterised as purposeful, open, complex systems having to cope with substantial stochasticity (Dillon 1992). Economics has been the discipline used to most effect to analyse farm management decisions (Malcolm 2004).

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