Abstract This research intends to refocus the on-farm fresh produce food safety paradigm away from an emphasis on knowledge deficit models and ready-made or tightly-coupled, reductionist solutions toward a loosely-coupled systems approach. The dynamic environment of produce farming and multi-dimensional objectives of produce growers create manifold pathways to address farm-specific food safety concerns. We propose a systems approach to facilitate increased decision making of growers using farm-specific criteria to improve their efforts. Currently, social and psychological dimensions of fresh produce food safety are overlooked in program development with preference given to bio-physical knowledge and technological solutions. In this paper, we describe a comprehensive model that was developed through a formal expert elicitation and literature review for the purpose of enhancing education and policy development and improving the microbiological safety of fresh and fresh cut produce. This model illuminates the intrinsic interrelationships among farm scale, marketing practices, and the need for appropriate food safety interventions. We further discuss how this loosely-coupled systems perspective can both aid our understanding of grower decision making and provide a basis for developing equitable solutions to on-farm food safety issues as part of a social-psychological approach to addressing these issues.