A few things I found helped:
- Sending heros with Renowned or higher food skill on foraging expeditions often yielded 1-2 seasons worth of food. (when you have a surplus trade it, prioritising herds!)
- I tried using hunting/foraging ventures for food, but didn’t find it as helpful.
- I used ventures to make lots of money (trapping furs in dark season, crafting gems, trading etc… netted decent goods, particularly with skilled people leading them). I used the goods to buy herds.
- Since I didn’t have the population to build more than 1 or 2 new shrines, I also used goods for blessings (calf/lamb blessings when food was good, milk blessings etc… when food was getting low). It’s not as good as a permanent shrine/temple, but it does help a lot.
- I tend to prioritise rewards that boost food in some way, if people are well fed and surviving they’re more likely to support my other endeavours.
- I prioritise sending a caravan to each wheel, then each ram, then each rider village. Doing so allows you to open more trade routes (one new trade route for every full set). More trade routes meant more goods, which I could spend on more herds.
- You can have a new alliance once you’ve visited all villages for a tribe, so after meeting all rams, riders or wheels, will net you a new alliance ‘slot’. Additional alliances allow you to have more temples/shrines, so you can support more food related magic.
- Spirits can be incredibly helpful. So far I have berry spirit, heron spirit, and caribou spirit (among others) that give food or help you find food. If you have a shaman on your ring, your odds of succeeding in persuading them go up (particularly if they’re very skilled in magic, possibly lore, I’m not sure).
- I tend to pour clan magic into fields, pastures and wilds (and try to have Ring members who worship related gods, so I can put more magic into that domain).