116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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What started as a Christmas tree farm in 2010 has expanded over the years to add a 40-year pumpkin farm, a food truck and, most recently, a rustic wedding barn.
Deb and Kevin Kacena bought 20 acres of bare farmland outside of Vinton in 2005, built a house and, in spring 2006, planted 6,000 Christmas tree seedlings.
'My family had a Christmas tree farm in Wisconsin and I really wanted one of my own,” Deb Kacena recalled. 'We had our first sale of Christmas trees in 2011 with eight trees we sold out of our garage.
'We also wanted to plant pumpkins, but we would have been in competition with someone who had been in the business south of town for many years. In 2013, I heard that the following year was going to be their last year.”
Kacena met with the owner of the pumpkin farm and by the time she left, was the new 'pumpkin lady.”
Lacking enough land for adequate parking for the Christmas tree farm, Deb and Kevin rented 17 acres to grow pumpkins.
They also spent a year learning the business from the longtime owner of the pumpkin farm across town.
'Growing pumpkins is really a science.” Deb said. 'You don't just put seeds in the ground and they grow.
'We opened our doors in 2015 for pumpkin sales. Our daughter and son-in-law have land where we are growing our pumpkins and we have stopped leasing land.”
With the Christmas trees maturing, Kacena Farms became a location for photographers to take photos for weddings and other special occasions.
'We started getting questions about whether couples could hold their wedding ceremony here,” Deb said. 'We decided to think about it, and it was on hold for a little while.”
Kevin had learned that he was probably going to lose his job as the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School was replaced by the Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
'The food truck was really the next logical step for me,” Kevin said. 'I'm too old to start a new career and too young to retire.”
'We were licensed to sell food on the pumpkin farm and we decided that the food truck would be Kevin's replacement income,” Deb said. 'We were able to use the food truck around Vinton, and this was our first full year of sales.”
The Kacenas, who were high school sweethearts growing up in Wisconsin, saw an opportunity with a rustic wedding barn venue and took the plunge this spring.
With seating for 250 guests, the wedding barn offers indoor or outdoor ceremony options.
There is a bridal suite and groom's lounge, a prep kitchen, bar area - beer and wine are not included - 30-by-60-foot covered pavilion, fire pit and bistro lighting, and outdoor grain bin bar.
'We have a number of different packages,” Deb said. 'People can rent the wedding barn from Friday at noon through Sunday at noon.
'They can have their rehearsal, wedding and reception here.”
'That way, they don't have to clean up on Saturday night and wait until Sunday to take down their decorations,” Kevin said. 'They can open gifts or have a brunch.”
The packages range in price from $400 for a four-hour rental, 25 people or less Monday through Thursday, to $5,500 for the weekend April through October.
'We are almost completely booked for 2021,” Deb said. 'When a couple gets married at our place, we want their day to be really special. We don't want to be a place that tries to fit as many weddings on a weekend.
'It is one couple per weekend, and they do not have to share that time with anyone else. We want them to have special memories.”
Couples have the option of having the Kacenas cater their wedding using the food truck or have an outside caterer supply the food.
The wedding barn also has multiple 50-amp exterior electrical outlets to accommodate additional food trucks.
'We will use the food truck during the weekdays and serve pizzas on the weekends,” Kevin said.
'If there is a wedding, we will have it available for their wedding venue.”
The food truck is the legal kitchen for the wedding barn. The prepping kitchen is not equipped with frying and other ancillary equipment.
Kevin said the pandemic actually helped food truck sales because he was able to offer curbside service.
'When the restaurants closed, we were able to grow our business,” he said. 'Out here, where everything is outside, social distancing has really not been a serious concern.
'People maintain their own distance, so it really hasn't affected us too much.”
The next step for Kacena Farms is the construction of 10 glamping cabins in 2021. Glamping is short for 'glamorous camping.”
'It will be a rustic cabin without toilets or running water,” Deb said. 'This will allow people to stay overnight.”
Kacena Farms is a family business, employing Deb and Kevin's daughter Alyce and son-in-law, Kyle, a Benton County deputy sheriff.
Deb continues to work full time as a paralegal in Vinton.
'We have everything we ever asked for,” Deb said. 'Alyce and Kevin are in with us 100 percent, and someday they will take it over with our grandsons.”
A Kacena Farms timeline
2005 - Deb and Kevin Kacena buy 20 acres of farmland, build a house and plant 6,000 Christmas tree seedlings
2010 - They sell eight Christmas trees out of their garage
2015 - The Kacenas add a pumpkin farm on 17 acres of leased land
2020 - A rustic wedding barn venue is constructed
2021 - Ten glamping cabins to be added.