Innovations in in vitro ovarian follicle culture have revolutionized the field of fertility preservation, but the successful culturing of isolated primary and small secondary follicles remains difficult. Herein, we describe a revised 3D culture system that uses a feeder layer of ovarian stromal cells to support early follicle development. This culture system allows significantly improved primary and early secondary follicle growth and survival. The stromal cells, consisting mostly of thecal cells and ovarian macrophages, recapitulate the in vivo conditions of these small follicles and increase the production of androgens and cytokines missing from stromal cell-free culture conditions. These results demonstrate that small follicles have a stage-specific reliance on the ovarian environment, and that growth and survival can be improved in vitro through a milieu created by pre-pubertal ovarian stromal cell co-culture.