(Sept. 26) A man who loved agriculture and devoted his career to tree fruit production in Okanogan County, Wash., has died.

Lester Woda, general manager for Johnny Appleseed Orchards, Mallot, Wash., drowned in a work-related accident July 18. He was 49.

Woda, a lifelong resident of Okanogan County, entered the industry by establishing his own company, L. Woda Inc., and later joined Johnny Appleseed — a 1,100-acre operation that harvests apples, pears and cherries. Zirkle Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., owns Johnny Appleseed, where he worked for more than 12 years, according to the Washington Apple Education Foundation, Wenatchee, Wash.

Joel Hand, a longtime friend of Woda’s and interim general manger at Johnny Appleseed, said Woda was a motivated man with a dynamic personality.

“He’s really a can-do person,” Hand said. “This orchard was almost to the point of being completely pushed out, and he was partly responsible, along with Zirkle, for getting it put back on the map.”

To honor Woda, a scholarship fund has been set up at the Washington Apple Education Foundation. The scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students who are Okanogan natives and seeking an agricultural production degree.

The applicant deadline is March 1, and those interested can download an application from the foundation’s Web site, www.waef.org.