Philip Waterinks, who devoted his life to supporting the farming community in Tucson and improving access to healthy foods, has died at the age of 62.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer about a decade ago, and later recovered. In 2018, he learned he had colon cancer, and in the middle of treatment, his prostate cancer came back. David Watson, Waterinckx’s best friend and caregiver, said he passed away on June 10 at Peppi’s House, a nursing home for the elderly in Tucson.
“He was a good person, and he impacted the lives of so many through CSA,” Watson said. “If you know him, you automatically love him.”
Waterinckx founded Community Supported Agriculture in Tucson in 2004, and is designed for Support local farmers to make healthy food accessible to people and create a community around it.
Through Tucson CSA, community members sign up for subscriptions for seasonal vegetables from local farms, providing producers with a consistent end market.
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Waterrinks was born in Belgium but spent most of his teenage years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he learned how to grow his own vegetables as a source of food for himself and his neighbours.
Community Supported Agriculture in Tucson was inspired by Waterinckx’s experiences in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“He believed in the community, he believed in supporting local farmers, and he wanted to bring these things together,” said Daniela Diamente, CSA co-director.
Waterinckx Tucson founded CSA when he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona.
CSA started with pickups at the Waterinckx Terrace with just 15 members. As the CSA grew, he moved operations to Historic Way’s yard, 738 N Fifth Avenue, where he remained.
Today, CSA has about 400 members and is primarily involved with three farms: Crooked Sky Farms, Sleeping Frog Farm, and Common Ground Farm.
“Life would have been very different if I didn’t find a CSA. It was the main source of getting a job and income but also the main source of interaction with the community,” said Sarah Jones, Co-Director of CSA.
The core values of Tucson CSA are local farming and production, seasonal local eating, nutritional education, ethical sourcing, fair food system, community and cooperation.
“I think he accomplished what he wanted with Tucson CSA,” Diamente said.
Waterinckx has lived in different countries all his life. However, he considered Tucson his adopted home.
He was passionate about travel and cooking.
“He loved making pasta recipes, and it was great,” Watson said. “Most of his recipes are things he would have put together.”
His favorite dish was the Flemish dish called waterzooi, which is chicken soup with leeks and tons of vegetables. “This is a recipe that was close and dear to him. So he would make it on special occasions if it was cold enough for soup,” Watson said.
Waterinckx created a blog online – Rings of Water – where he was sharing his journey around cancer, health updates and treatment in an upbeat fashion.
“I think it was his way of humanizing the process of someone going through cancer, and then treating them themselves,” Diamenti said. “But he also has people all over the world who love and care about him, and so it was a way to express what was going on.”
Waterrinks called his penultimate letter “Pain,” as he wrote about the pain he’s been going through for the past two years.
“Pain is hard to manage, especially when it comes from multiple sources,” Waterrinks wrote.
He will be remembered by his loved ones as a kind-hearted person who loved helping others.
To commemorate Waterinckx and his work for the Tucson community, CSA is creating a small mosaic mural within the Y Historic Courtyard. Because of the summer heat in Tucson, the Waterinckx Memorial won’t take place until November 5, on Historic Y.
Waterinckx is survived by his husband Paul Durham, the former Tucson City Councilman who represents Ward 3.