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Abstract

Fifty years of Australian academic literature about farm management is surveyed and reviewed chronologically and methodologically. Farm management started as a field of academic inquiry during the 1940s, and at the end of the first decade most of the major emphases which were to predominate over the ensuing decades had made their debut in the literature. Major emphases over the fifty years have been records and accounts, production economic thinking, linear programming, decision theory and systems simulation approaches. Overtime came increasing doubt about the usefulness of each of these emphases, and in the 1980s journal writings about farm management declined greatly. Much academic work about farm management during the past fifty years lacked relevance because of a 'partial-farm management' orientation. This derives in part from a methodological focus which is too narrowly disciplinary, and insufficiently dynamic, and also from the imperative of specialisation for progress to be made in particular disciplines. The human element, the technology, the financial and taxation aspects, the dynamic, complex and uncertain nature of farming, factors beyond the farm gate, the processes of farm management, and the need for sound judgements about 'the numbers' are more important aspects of farm management than was implied by the emphases on records, production economics, optimal plans, quantitative decision analysis and systems modelling. The balance of the emphases on the various disciplines has to be appropriate for work in farm management to be relevant to problem solving. The traditional, relatively simple, farm management budgets have stood up well to tests of time because they enable the full dimensions of the problem to be brought into consideration. Further the computer spreadsheet has enhanced the analytical power and problem solving relevance of the traditional farm management budgets. Thus there is plenty to be going on with.

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