The Hello Josephines play at the Conant Homestead. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK — The historic Conant Homestead has been hosting a summer concert series, opening up the farmland to locals for a free night of music and family activities.

Michael Shaughnessy bought the homestead, on Conant Street off Main Street, four years ago. Built in 1768, it was once a fruitful farm that employed locals and sold produce, but farming fell by the wayside over the years as the Conant descendants aged.

The audience takes in the music at the July 12 concert. Chance Viles/American Journal

Shaughnessy, founding board member of the Friends of the Presumpscot River and a Westbrook native, has since brought some farming back and opened up the space for concerts for the public to enjoy.

“It’s a four generation household and a burgeoning permaculture farm,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s beautiful here, and we are melding events with the farm activities, the trails and the river right by us. … It’s a way to share the space and promote great, local musicians.”

Concerts are held in the side yard next to the home, with the rolling farm lands as the back drop. Visitors are free to roam around to see the goats and chickens. A Portland Trails pathway runs along the Presumpscot River farther back.

“The music tends to be more acoustic, we have had rhythm and blues, jazz, Acadian music and folk,” Shaughnessy said.

On July 12 the farm hosted the Hello Josephines, a band that blends jazz and R&B with definite New Orleans influence, coming from the fact that half of the band spends much of their year living in New Orleans.

Michael Shaughnessy feeds the farm’s most popular goat, Everest, before the July 12 concert. Chance Viles/ American Journal

“We have played the Frog & Turtle, we played Together Days as well,” singer and pianist Bess Jacques said. “(The farm) is beautiful, I love the people and it’s a great place to play.”

Bands play on a homemade stage directly under a tree, giving an impression that the musicians are a genuine part of the homestead.

About 30 people turned out for the performance with drinks, food and lawn chairs. Locals sometimes show up with their instruments too, as jam sessions sometimes take place following the scheduled show.

“When I was in 7th grade, I had my first job here,” local Claire Berg said. “It was owned by the Conants then. I picked peas, beans and strawberries, that was probably 1963. …It’s wonderful to see what Mike has done with bringing back the farm, and what he has done in the land, it’s really great.”

The shows have been such a success that Shaughnessy is already planning a concert series next year, which will align well with the expansions to the farm.

The general seating area for the audience at the Conant Homestead. Chance Viles/American Journal

“We plan to really evolve the farm. We currently are selling some eggs and things, but we are looking to really grow the farm part so it plays a bigger role in what we do, with market tables and other things possibly down the road,” Shaughnessy said.

The concerts are free, with the farm opening up to the public around 6 p.m., with music kicking off at 7 p.m. Water and bug spray is provided, food and drinks are BYOB.

The next show is slated to be Maisie and Miriam on  July 26. The group is a Cajun music duo featuring a guitar and fiddle. The final scheduled concert will be Aug. 9, with Josephine County, a four-piece Acadian group.

Michael Shaughnessy packs some eggs he is selling to concert goers.  Chance Viles/American Journal

More of the Conant Homestead farm. Chance Viles/American Journal

Some of the farm portion of the homestead. Chance Viles/American Journal

A Conant Homestead chicken. Chance Viles/American Journal