Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Luther H. Keller

Committee Members

Thomas J. Whatley, Charles L. Cleland, Hans E. Jensen


The efficient combination of land, labor, capital, and manage-ment resources in agricultural production requires the specification of the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of these resources. A limiting factor affecting efficient resource combinations is a greater lack of knowledge of the characteristics of one of the resources relative to the other resources. In agricultural production this limitation is imposed by the inability to specify the characteristics of the manage-ment resource. The present study had as its broad purpose the specification of relevant mental processes involved in the operation of a farm business. The specific objectives of the study were; (1) to isolate, from ob-servable and relevant management behavior of farm operators, basic mental processes explaining such behavior; and (2) to analyze the rela-tionship of variations in such processes to variations in managerial performance criteria. Factor analysis was used with respect to the first objective, and regression analysis was used with respect to the second objective. Data were collected from a random sample of 123 commercial farm operators located in the Elk River Watershed. The data consisted of 100 descriptive items of observable behavior of farm operators. The items were designed to indicate the extent to which the operators exhibited such behavior in managerial processes, A factor analysis of the observed behavior of farm operators indicated that 11 processes accounted for the behavior. This analysis indicated that (1) observation and analytical ability, (2) off-farm activity participation, (3) self initiative, (4) systematization of farming operations, (5) attitude toward physical labor, (6) communi-cation with off-farm environment, (7) use of market information as a criterion of operational adjustments, (8) verbal communications ability, (9) detail mindedness, (10) community influence, and (11) orientation toward farming as an occupation, are processes involved in carrying on the managerial operations of a farm business. Scores were computed indicating the extent to which each of the 110 farm operators exhibited each of the 11 processes. A correlation analysis indicated that (1) observation and analytical ability, (2) self initiative, (3) low value placed on physical labor, (4) high degree of communication with total environment, and (5) verbal co- munications ability, were all significantly and positively related to years of education. This relationship was suggestive of the mental nature of the processes identified. The analysis also indicated that age was significantly and negatively related to (1) a low value placed on physical work, and (2) a high value placed on farm management as a professional business occupation. Experience as a farm operator was negatively related to detail mindedness but positively related to community influence on farming operations. A regression of returns to management, net farm income, and size of operation on the 11 processes resulted in the processes explaining 12 percent, 17 percent, and 42 percent, respectively, of variations in these criteria of managerial performance. The regression analyses indicated that (1) observation and analytical ability, verbal communications ability, and orientation toward farm management as a professional occupation, were among the more important processes affecting managerial performance, with a positive relationship being suggested; and (2) that participation in off-farm activities was nega-tively related to managerial performance. The findings of the study, although inconclusive without addi-tional validation, supported the initial hypotheses of the study which stated that: (1) basic mental processes relevant to the management function of the commercial farm operator can be isolated from observ-able behavior of farm operators; and (2) variations in such processes will explain some part of the variation in managerial performance of farm operators.

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