At at time in English literature when little focus was placed on rustics (Dickens was primarily focused on the urban poor), Hardy gave the rural poor a voice and place in this novel, primarily through Gabriel Oak, an exemplary character.
After Oak loses his sheep due to an overzealous sheepdog herding them over the side of a cliff, he is forced to join the rural poor and work as a hired hand for Bathsheba, the woman he had hoped to marry. We see him sink in class, but not lose his pride, or, more importantly, the wholesome virtues of honesty, integrity, loyalty, and hard work that are shown to characterize the rustics in the novel.
Through Gabriel's eyes, we are able to see and hear the rustics, such as when he joins them in congregating together and talking at the local tavern before the fire. Their good-heartedness and simple, homespun wisdom—along with their dialect and (largely) wholesome support of Bathsheba, an oddity as a female landowner—can come across as a bit too much goodness for a modern audience, but Hardy, in his defense, was trying to portray ordinary rural folk in a positive light (and in later novels, is harsher and more realistic about them). Their values here, however, are shown to be superior to those of more sophisticated, more urbane types like Troy, who lacks the same integrity and is out solely for himself. He threatens to destroy Bathsheba, a contrast to the way Oak and the other rustic hand rally to help her succeed.