Jim Smith loves being the only stand-up farmer on the comedy circuit. But there's one thing he loves more, being back on the farm with his yows, the single mothers he has made into social media stars.

SOME farmers branch out into Airbnb, some run Wigwam sites, others make their own ice-cream or host llama trekking holidays. But there can’t be many who are making their bit of money on the side by telling a few jokes about their yows or hoggets. This, however, is what stand-up and farmer Jim Smith describes as “diversification”, and it's working well. This wasn’t what he imagined would happen when he did a five-minute slot at The Stand six years ago but, as he prepares for the start of his latest comedy tour, he says, “It’s now a serious bit of income of which I am glad.”

Smith tips a bucket of feed, trailing a line of pellets for his flock over a long, sloping field on his farm at Caputh in the Perthshire hills. It’s a warm spring day and the air is still, only broken by the thunder of ewes, lumbering, heavily pregnant and soon to lamb, as they crowd in around him, pushing and barging.

Some of these sheep look very like those that have already starred in some of the video farm diaries he films for BBC Scotland The Short Stuff, that it’s hard not to expect him to react to them with a gag. Perhaps one rather like the bit of footage where he introduces us to a ewe, saying, “This is Mary Macgregor, one of my prize yows. She’s had two laddies here. Mary like a lot of the yows here on the farm is a working single mother. They don’t know who the father is.”

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So where is prize yow Mary? And what does he call the one that jumps through the air like a week-old lamb, legs darting in opposite directions? It turns out, in real life, he doesn’t actually have names for all his sheep – which doesn’t surprise me as a farmer’s daughter who has done a few stints in the lambing shed many years ago. The most personal he gets is calling a small orphan lamb, which he earlier picked out for our photo shoot, “Lamby”.

“You don’t name them all. But you do care for them,” he says. “You look after them and there are some that stand out as characters. I’ve got one just now who is a pet.” As he watches the ewes eat, listening to the rumble of them chewing, he appears happy. “It’s the noise,” he says. “It’s like at night when you feed the cows and you’ve got a nice bale of hay and you hear them munching and they’re quiet and they’re satisfied.”

Six years on since his first gig and, at 40 years old, he is revving up for the start of a stand-up tour, titled Back To The Teuchter, with dates planned around gaps in the year between lambing, sowing and harvesting. He’s enthusiastic about the comedy world – says he loves the “craic” and “the buzz" but it’s clear where his priorities lie. It’s farming that is his big love, as is testified by the fact that his twitter feed is littered with the hashtag #lovemyjob. “Farming is never going to make you a fortune,” he says, “but you’re rich in other ways.”

Stand-up wasn’t a childhood ambition – the idea only came to him in his mid-thirties. "It wasn’t like I went through school thinking about comedy,” he says. “When I went to Young Farmers, we did a pantomime every couple of years and there was always the cabaret talent competition where you had to do a ten-minute song and dance routine. I did a bit of comedy in that. That was where I got a bug for it.”

At 34 years old he took a slot at The Stand in Glasgow and realised that audiences outside the farming community were up for a bit of stand-up on a rural theme – though his subject matter needed to be tweaked from the kind of gags he'd worked in a National Farmers' Union speech or set. One of the stereotypes that seemed to go down well was the idea that life in the country is a little bit backward. “You can have a lot of fun with that,” he says. “I hope people know it’s an act. It’s exaggerated, but some of it is true.”

A favourite of his gags, he says, is one in which he says, “I’m not much of a Teuchter but my childhood Scalextric set was just a single-track road with passing places.” It gets a great response, he observes. “And it just sums up what it’s like here.” The farm is, indeed, up a bumpy road, and off the beaten track, and he likes it that way. He also likes the fact that he doesn’t have to commute. “I get frustrated when there’s a five-car queue at the Perth roundabout.”

On the comedy circuit he is pretty much alone in occupying the stand-up farmer niche. However, he notes, the farming scene contains many funny personalities. “I guess it’s like what Billy Connolly said about the shipyards. There are loads of great characters. There are far funnier guys than me I’ve found in farming. Not comedians. Just naturally funny people. I take a bit from them because I really like character acting. A lot of them are from real people.”

Smith is a tenant farmer, living on the land on which he grew up with his two sisters. The tenancy at Stralochy has been in his family since his grandfather came up from Fife in 1949, one of seven siblings, all in farming. He now occupies the big farmhouse with his girlfriend, Morag, who he describes as, “A city girl, but she loves country life. Good at the lambing and she loves animals. Of course she’s heard all my gags 20 times. She’s quite funny herself. Some of the things she says I’ll write down.”

His mother, who lives in the bungalow next door, is 70 years old and still works the farm with him. His father, he says, passed away five years ago, of a brain tumour. “He was ill for about a year and then he passed away – so he’s never actually seen me doing the stand up. But when we did the Young Farmers' pantos, he came to them. He liked them. I think he would enjoy me bringing in some extra money – and still farming.”

From childhood Smith always wanted to be a farmer. He recalls that from 11-years-old, when he first learned to drive a tractor, he liked nothing better than time spent on the farm, ploughing or helping his dad in some other way. “I didn’t enjoy school much. Although I went to school in Blairgowrie and it was quite a rural town, none of my pals were into farming. But I just lived and breathed farming. I loved playing football but I didn’t play for a team – I just wanted to spend my weekends working, helping Dad. A weekend ploughing was like a dream weekend for me.”

One of his early sketches was about farmers' love of their tractors. In the sketch, he describes how the local young farmers like to throw their keys into a bowl in the middle of the room and have the thrill of a night of taking another farmer’s tractor home. I am familiar with this tractor love. My dad, many years after he left farming, can still go goggle-eyed over a classic tractor. “Aye,” says Smith. “I totally love them. I can always remember – not that we got them often – every time in my childhood when we got a new tractor. It came immaculate with that new tractor smell. They were second hand but all valeted, just gleaming. So we would always take a photo and there’s a photo album. I think there have only been about ten in my lifetime.”

As a boy, Smith wasn’t particularly interested in television comedy. Since theirs was a one television household, he recalls, they watched what their parents watched and “that was The Two Ronnies, Scotch And Wry, Rikki Fulton.” But, among his formative comedy influences, was listening to tapes of the make-believe broadcasts of fictional remote rural radio stations that comprised the show Colin Campbell’s Local Radio. “He was brilliant,” says Smith, “and a farmer. I grew up listening to him when everyone else at school was listening to Nirvana and KLF. I was listening to this guy because I thought he was a genius. So he is original and best.”

Humour was something developed and shared with his sisters, a way of entertaining themselves. “There was a lot of mundane jobs like grading potatoes – where you picked off the stones and that. It was always me and my two sisters and we needed a bit of banter, so we would recite Blackadder or Victoria Wood sketches – to keep you amused. I think those mundane jobs bring it out. We were always having a laugh and a joke.”

Smith never tried to pursue any other line of work. It was farming all the way. “I worked away for a year and a half in a neighbouring farm, as a farm manager. But I hated it. It just wasn’t the same as doing your own stuff. I think it is good to go away to work for other farmers – because you learn so much more from other folk.”

For all his enthusiasm, Smith acknowledges that farming isn’t easy. “It’s bloody difficult. When it’s going great it’s the best job in the world. But if you’ve got the bank manager on your conscience and you can’t pay bills – we’ve all been there at one point – it’s difficult.”

He notes that there is also a big mental health issue. “It’s because of the loneliness and stress. Farmers bottle themselves up. I guess they’re not inclined to maybe just nip down to the pub and blow off some steam with their mates. And that’s all it takes.”

Spring has come early to Stralochy this year, after what Smith describes as a good winter – “just about the easiest we’ve had”. There has been so little snow and frost, he observes, that the grass is much greener than it usually might be. “I think we’ve have about two days of snow and that’s been it.”

The weather, as might be expected, is a frequent refrain. It’s also a theme in his comedy. One of Smith’s most popular social media posts is footage of him standing out in the sunshine last summer, complaining about the heat. “Must be at least nearly 14... 15 degree, like, aye,” he says. “Things are really beginning to burn up now…Bit o’ a situation. My truck’s broken doon – and I’m at least a quarter of a mile from the farm and I’m oot of water.”

His gags are rarely political – though Brexit is a subject he occasionally tackles. A tweet of his in March, observed, “Theresa May looks like she's just done five weeks picking off stanes on the back of a tattie harvester.” With regards to the impact of leaving the EU on farming, he seems concerned but philosophical. “In Scotland we export a lot of lamb, and beef, but mainly the lamb because we’re not really big lamb eaters here in the UK. So there’s that uncertainty. But I think maybe in the long run it will all sort itself out. It’s lucky we’ve got the Scottish brand and Scottish meat is high quality so it will sell throughout the world.”

He takes this chilled approach to most things. Is he concerned about how the rise of the vegan might threaten stock-farming? “I don’t think so. Everyone needs to calm down a bit. I think there’s going to be that much the population is rising all the time of Scotland, so we’re going to have to feed a lot of people. If we didn’t eat meat there wouldn’t be any sheep or cattle and you would just see them in the zoo. The countryside would be a lot different. Overgrown. Just a mess. They’re great green keepers. They’re custodians of the countryside. And I’m not going to lie – who doesn’t like a steak?”

What’s noticeable is that Smith enthuses far more about his farming life than his comedy career. He frequently waxes lyrical, in a way that could be comic, but actually seems genuine. For instance, he says he loves this time of year when it’s possible to get the animals out onto the grass, and plough the fields before sowing. “It’s a nostalgia for me. Because I loved just sitting with my dad in the tractor to sow the barley. When I was ten or 11 I loved driving tractors. Just loved driving tractors. So that always reminds me of that time.”

Though he says he enjoys the craic of the Edinburgh Fringe, and has comedian friends– including Scot Squad star Chris Forbes – he doesn’t tend to stay in a city after a gig. Instead, most days, he drives back. “I love feeding cows here and then getting washed and dressed and away down to Glasgow on a Saturday night. But see if I go somewhere for a couple of days I’m needing to get home after that. I think maybe that’s why I haven’t really taken my comedy down really to England – because the thought of spending three days in a travel lodge in Coventry seems wrong.”

Even the idea that comedy might just be a passing phase in his life doesn’t bother him. “Maybe it’s only a fad for two or three years and folk are like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen enough of him.’ I think as long as I’m still farming I’m happy.”

There’s something enviable in that satisfaction. As he looks out from the head of the glen towards Caputh, over fields glowing in the spring light, he says he wants to be farming here for the whole of his life. “I’ll just go out of here in a box,” he says.” “You can’t buy this… It’s great – so I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’m very lucky.”

Jim Smith’s Back To The Teuchter will be touring venues in Scotland and the north of England from May 3