The intersection between developmental programs and environmental conditions that alter physiology is a growing area of research interest. The C. elegans germ line is emerging as a particularly sensitive and powerful model for these studies. The germ line is subject to environmentally regulated diapause points that allow worms to withstand harsh conditions both prior to and after reproduction commences. It also responds to more subtle changes in physiological conditions. Recent studies demonstrate that different aspects of germ line development are sensitive to environmental and physiological changes and that conserved signaling pathways such as the AMPK, Insulin/IGF, TGFβ, and TOR-S6K, and nuclear hormone receptor pathways mediate this sensitivity. Some of these pathways genetically interact with but appear distinct from previously characterized mechanisms of germline cell fate control such as Notch signaling. Here, we review several aspects of hermaphrodite germline development in the context of "feasting," "food-limited," and "fasting" conditions. We also consider connections between lifespan, metabolism and the germ line, and we comment on special considerations for examining germline development under altered environmental and physiological conditions. Finally, we summarize the major outstanding questions in the field.