A common assumption is that most bacteria grow quickly, or are at least capable of rapid growth under optimal conditions. While this assumption may be valid for many pathogens or bacteria growing in resource rich environments (like the human gut) – it is by no means universal. Many bacteria, including those found in soil, have been selected for efficient growth, not rapid growth. Unfortunately, these ‘oligotrophic’ bacteria, despite being dominant in soil and other environments, remain very difficult to study. I will explain why most soil bacteria are likely oligotrophic and what this means for our understanding of these communities and their contributions to ecosystem processes. I will then discuss what we know, or think we know, about the strategies used by bacteria to grow in resource-limited conditions. I will finish by discussing recent work investigating microbial diversity in Antarctic soils, one of the most oligotrophic environments on Earth.