Field Notes

Let the Sun Shine

Two lifelong friends are harnessing solar power and can-do attitudes to make a life in their hometown.

Illustration by Morgan Krieg

 

By Thomas Clark

W hen Curran Edland and I graduated from Whitefish High School in 2013 and went away to college, we had no idea we’d need big city salaries to come back and live in our small hometown. Thankfully, we were naive enough to give it a try. We learned quickly that slinging pizza at Jersey Boys, as Curran did for upward of three years, and working as an online freelancer, as I did, wasn’t going to cut it for the long haul. But we loved it here—this was our home, after all—so we stuck it out.

Both of us threw ourselves back into what we loved about this valley. I started coaching boys and girls soccer at Columbia Falls High School, something I never could have possibly imagined doing when I was a proud Bulldog. Curran managed to keep his loyalties undivided, coaching soccer at Whitefish High School while also immersing himself in sustainability work with Climate Smart Glacier Country and the city of Whitefish. (We both have a knack for committing to great ideas that don’t pay much, something both of our significant others are quick to point out.)

So when Curran began working for Lee Calhoun at Northstone Solar, he was more confident in the company’s mission than about making ends meet. But we both feel that some things are more important than a paycheck, the environment being one of them.

We took the reins of Northstone, hoping above all else that our storefront sign doesn’t end up on the walls of the Northern.

 

Curran stayed with Northstone, taking some part-time gigs on the side (a story familiar to many young locals who are either too stubborn or too in love with the Flathead to leave). In the fall of 2021, Lee passed Curran the reins of Northstone, making him another business owner in the Flathead who hopes above all else that his storefront sign doesn’t end up on the walls of the Northern.

I signed on with Northstone this past January, viewing an opportunity to work with Curran in the field of sustainability as truly once-in-a-lifetime. Despite the odds and obstacles, we’re two lifelong friends and valley natives working together to run a business. A business that not only represents our hopes of developing our own means of staying in the place we love, but one that represents the greener world that we want to see.

We have big plans to do our part for the planet by putting solar panels on as much of the valley as we can. As the business continues to grow, we both continue to be involved in the local community. Curran is still on staff with the Whitefish Bulldogs, and I have been the head coach of the girls soccer program at Columbia Falls High School for the past three years.

So, the next time you see the Northstone Solar logo, give us a call. We can chat about solar, or we can talk about this great valley that increasingly few of us can afford, but our hearts can’t afford to leave. And if you do one day find our sign on the walls of the Northern, come have a drink with us. You’ll probably find us both sitting at the bar, because succeed or fail, we can’t imagine living anywhere else.

When he is not coaching soccer or working, Thomas enjoys being outdoors and spending time with family. He and his partner are expecting their first in June and they’re excited to raise another generation in the valley.

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