Philippe Waterinckx, who dedicated his life to supporting the Tucson farming community and improving access to healthy food, has died at the age of 62.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 and later went into remission. In 2018, the cancer came back and spread all over her body. He died June 10 at Peppi’s House, a hospital in Tucson, said David Watson, Waterinckx’s best friend and caregiver.
“He was a good person and touched so many lives through the CSA,” Watson said. “If you knew him, you automatically loved him.”
Waterinckx founded Tucson Community Supported Agriculture in 2004, designed by Waterinckx support local farmers to make healthy food accessible to people and create a community around them.
Through Tucson CSA, community members sign up to get seasonal vegetable subscriptions from local farms, providing growers with a steady end market.
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Waterinckx was born in Belgium but spent most of his adolescence in the Republic of the Congo, where he learned to grow his own vegetables as a source of food for himself and his neighbors.
Tucson Community Supported Agriculture was inspired by Waterinckx’s experiences in the Congo.
“He believed in the community, and he believed in supporting local farmers, and he wanted to bring these things together,” CSA co-director Daniela Diamente said.
Waterinckx founded Tucson CSA while a graduate student at the University of Arizona.
CSA started with collections on the Waterinckx porch with only 15 members. As CSA grew, it moved operations to the courtyard of Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave., where it remains.
Today, CSA has about 400 members and is primarily associated with three farms: Crooked Sky Farms, Sleeping Frog Farm and Common Ground Farm.
“Life would be completely different if I hadn’t found CSA. It’s been my main source of employment and income, but also my main source of interaction with the community,” said CSA co-director Sara Jones.
The core values of Tucson CSA are local agriculture and production, seasonal local food, food education, ethical sourcing, the equitable food system, community, and collaboration.
“I think he got what he wanted through Tucson CSA,” Diamente said.
Waterinckx lived in different countries throughout his life. However, he considered Tucson his foster home.
He was passionate about traveling and cooking.
“He loved making pasta recipes and it was amazing,” Watson said. “Most of his recipes are things he would just put together.”
His favorite dish was a flamenco dish called waterzooi, a chicken soup with leeks and tons of vegetables. “This is a recipe that was close and dear to him. So I would do it on special occasions if it was fresh enough to make soup,” Watson said.
Waterinckx created an online blog, Rings of Water, where he shared his journey against cancer, health updates and treatment with an optimistic approach.
“I think it was his way of humanizing the process of someone going through cancer and then processing it himself,” Diamente said. “But he also has people around the world who love him and care about him, so it was a way to communicate what’s going on.”
Waterinckx titled his penultimate publication “Pain,” in which he wrote about the pain he had suffered for the past two years.
“Pain is difficult to manage, especially when it comes from a variety of sources,” Waterinckx wrote.
His loved ones will remember him as a kind-hearted person who loved to help others.
To commemorate Waterinckx and its work for the Tucson community, CSA is working on creating a small mosaic mural inside the historic Y courtyard. Due to the Tucson summer heat, the Waterinckx Memorial will not be held until on November 5, in the courtyard of the Historic Y.
Waterinckx is survived by her husband Paul Durham, a former Tucson City Councilor who represented Ward 3.