Philippe Waterinckx, supporter of Tucson farming, improving healthy food access, dies | local news

Philippe Waterinckx, who committed his life to supporting Tucson’s farming community and improving access to healthy foods, has died at the age of 62.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 and later went into remission. In 2018, the cancer returned and spread throughout his body. He died June 10 at Peppi’s House, a hospice care in Tucson, said David Watson, Waterinckx’s best friend and caregiver.

“He was a good person, and he touched so many lives through the CSA,” Watson said. “If you knew him, you loved him automatically.”

Waterinckx founded Tucson Community Supported Agriculture in 2004, designed to support local farmers to make healthy food accessible to people and create a community around it.

Through the Tucson CSA, community members sign up for subscriptions of seasonal vegetables from local farms, providing producers a consistent end market.

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Waterinckx was born in Belgium but spent most of his adolescence in the Republic of Congo, where he learned how to grow his own vegetables as a source of food for him and his neighbors.

Tucson Community Supported Agriculture was inspired by Waterinckx’s experiences in the Congo.

“He believed in community, and he believed in supporting local farmers, and he wanted to bring those things together,” said co-director of CSA, Daniela Diamente.

Waterinckx founded Tucson CSA while he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona.

CSA started off with pickups on Waterinckx’s porch with just 15 members. As CSA grew, he moved operations to the courtyard of the Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave., where it remains.

Today, CSA has around 400 members and primarily partners with three farms: Crooked Sky Farms, Sleeping Frog Farm and Common Ground Farm.

“Life would be absolutely different if I hadn’t found CSA. It’s been my main source of having a job and income but also my main source of interacting with the community,” said CSA co-director Sara Jones.

Tucson CSA’s core values ​​are local farming and production, seasonal local eating, food education, ethical sourcing, equitable food system, community and collaboration.

“I think he accomplished what he wanted to through Tucson CSA,” Diamente said.

Waterinckx lived in different countries throughout his life. However, he considered Tucson his adopted home.

He was passionate about traveling and cooking.

“He loved making pasta recipes, and he was amazing,” Watson said. “Most of his recipes are stuff that he would just throw together.”

His favorite dish was a Flemish dish called waterzooi, a chicken soup with leeks and tons of vegetables. “That’s a recipe that was near and dear to him. So he would make that on special occasions if it was cool enough out to have soup,” Watson said.

Waterinckx created an online blog — Rings of Water — where he was sharing his cancer journey, health and treatment updates with an optimistic approach.

“I think it was his way of kind of just humanizing the process of someone going through cancer, and then processing it himself,” Diamente said. “But he also has people all over the world that love him and care about him, and so it was a way to communicate what’s going on.”

Waterinckx titled his penultimate post “Pain,” where he wrote about the pain he had been going through for the past two years.

“Pain is hard to manage, especially when it comes from multiple sources,” Waterinckx wrote.

His loved ones will remember him as a kind-hearted person who loved helping others.

To commemorate Waterinckx and his work for the Tucson community, CSA is working on creating a small mosaic mural within the Historic Y courtyard. Due to Tucson’s summer heat, Waterinckx’s memorial will not be held until Nov. 5, at the courtyard of the Historic Y.

Waterinckx is survived by his husband Paul Durham, a former Tucson City Councilman representing Ward 3.

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