Michael and Melissa Sheptak own Feel Good Farms, but they don’t grow crops on their 2.5 acres, just positive vibes.
From May through September, the professional partiers host all-ages public concerts, weddings and other private events at 214 Wagner Road near Evans City, close to the cemetery where the opening scenes of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” were filmed.
But don’t worry, even the ghosts inhabiting the 162-year-old farmhouse in Forward Township, about 27 miles from Pittsburgh, seem pretty chill.
In addition to the haunted house, the fenced-in compound includes a tiny cabin, two stages, a teepee, camping areas for tents and RVs and a lumber mill. There are chickens, a dog and three donkeys. The livestock stay in the pen during concerts but spend the rest of their time roaming free in search of cuddles. (They also like to eat tents, so watch your campsite.)
Michael Sheptak does all of the on-site construction. He is building a furniture and cabinetry workshop with a full bathroom and a recording studio that musicians can use during their stay at Feel Good Farms, which already is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system. He’s also plotting out a space for a barn.
On Friday, June 17, Pennsylvania-based bluegrass band Cabinet will rock the pasture with an opening set by Broke, Stranded and Ugly. The show is sold-out but you can snag passes to the rest of this season’s down-home shindigs online. All proceeds go to the artists and upgrades to the farm.
Each rain-or-shine event averages about 100 to 150 attendees, who can bring their own food and beverages. Melissa Sheptak also makes organic goodies and the Taqueria Acosta food truck rolls up to sling tacos to hungry revelers.
Forward Township has no sound ordinance, so parties can get loud; folks who live 3 miles down the road were able to hear the last throwdown. To be good neighbors, the Sheptaks try to silence the music by 10:30 p.m.
Once the show ends, ticket-holders are invited to camp out and enjoy acoustic tunes around a bonfire. The opportunity to commune with artists in such an up-close and personal setting makes the property different than most entertainment venues.
At Feel Good Farms, songs are cultivated like heirloom vegetables. The Sheptaks both grew up in musical households and Michael plays the drums for veteran roots rock band Dizzy Woosh. The pair met at one of the ensemble’s concerts.
After living in nearby Adams Township for years, they purchased the historic property in 2015. Instrument-toting friends and family members were always dropping by for jam sessions, so a pavilion was erected to shelter the performers.
In 2016, those impromptu gatherings grew into an annual Harvest Festival. Melissa Sheptak’s father passed away the morning of the inaugural fall bash. Despite a string of violent storms swirling above the region, Feel Good Farms remained sunny and dry. The grieving family took that as a sign from above.
Covid put an end to the large-scale festival and forced the owners to focus on booking acts for more intimate parties where tunes — especially folk, bluegrass, alt-country and funk – were the main attraction.
Bands appreciate the attentive crowds and hospitality. The Sheptaks plan to start housing national touring musicians by this winter and want Feel Good Farms to be a retreat for all types of artists.
The place was named after a Dizzy Woosh song that is now the soundtrack to the Sheptaks’ life.
“People will come up to me at shows and compliment me on the farm,” Melissa Sheptak says, “but it’s the people who make the vibe.”