IJAM Volume 7

DOI: 10.5836/ijam/2018-07-01 An appreciation of John Nix Professor John Nix, who died on March 15 th 2018, had an outstanding career as the leading fi gure of his generation in the study of farm business management. Through his teaching, research, publications, public speaking and involvement with organisations, such as the Institute for Agricultural Management, his aim was to improve the application of management skills to agricultural businesses at a practical level. He was remarkably successful in that endeavor and in doing so he became a household name amongst the farming community. His in fl uence has been both far reaching and profound in the UK but it has also been signi fi cant internationally. John was brought up in an urban environment on a Council Estate in South London. An academic high achiever from a very early age, he gained a scholarship to read Economics at Exeter University. On graduation he joined the Royal Navy as an Instructor Lieutenant. He had hoped to see something of the world in his new job but sadly this did not extend beyond the con fi nes of HMS Ganges, a shore-based establishment in Suffolk. After three years in the Navy, he decided in 1951 to apply for a post as Senior Research Of fi cer in the School of Agriculture at the University of Cambridge. It was this somewhat unlikely change in direction that started his lifelong passion for agriculture and agricultural eco- nomics. His new job involved touring East Anglia visiting farms and collecting data and in doing so he developed an understanding and a fondness for the industry that never left him. Whilst at Cambridge John authored a number of studies into the economics of various farm enterprises in East Anglia and he became involved with the early modelling work on farm systems which was developing at that time. In 1961 he moved to Wye College (University of London) to join the Economics Department as lecturer and also as Farm Management Liaison Of fi cer whose task it was to provide economic and management sup- port for the NAAS, the state run agricultural advisory service of those days. This latter role meant that, as well as conducting research and teaching within a university environment, he was expected to extend the results of his research directly to individual farmer clients. This gave him a unique insight into the practical data needs of farm planners and was a stimulus to the production of The Farm Management Pocketbook, the fi rst edition of which came out in 1966. This publication, now titled the ‘ John Nix Farm Management Pocket- book ’ and under the editorship of Graham Redman of Anderson ’ s, is currently in its 48th edition. Estimated to have sold a quarter of a million copies by the time John retired in 1989, it became a standard reference for business in UK agriculture. He always emphasized that the data was for planning purposes only and should always be modi fi ed if local conditions or knowledge suggested it. He was sometimes frustrated by the way in which fi gures from the Pocket- book became treated as fi xed targets, goals or objectives, rather than as guidance as to what was likely in an average year in a particular situation. He was also on one occasion taken aback when one farmer said that he found the Pocketbook very useful for fi lling in compli- cated farm survey questionnaires about yields, labour use and other items (thus completing the data circle!). John built, over time, a large information exchange network with the industry to source data for the Pocket- book, for mutual bene fi t. An example of this was the dairy advisory support group Kingshay, which John helped found in 1991, and was then its President until 1996. John updated the Pocketbook on an annual basis. He imposed a strict timetable for himself and during this time he went into purdah. Woe betide anyone who inter- rupted him over that period! As an academic, he was known for his analytical approach to farm management problems. The fi rst edition of his textbook Farm Planning and Control , jointly authored with C.S. Barnard, came out in 1973, with a second edi- tion in 1979. It was regarded as the best UK treatise on the subject, was used throughout the world and was translated into Spanish. He also authored, together with Paul Hill and Nigel Williams, a second textbook Land and Estate Management which appeared in 1987 and ran to three editions during the 90 ’ s. There was a third textbook, Emeritus Professor John Sydney Nix 1927 - 2018 International Journal of Agricultural Management, Volume 7 Issue 1 ISSN 2047-3710 & 2018 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management 1